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Speaking to an emergency All-Chiefs conference in Prince Albert recently; Chief Ahenakew said that over the year's Indian people themselves, had "acted in such a way that has tended to weaken the Treaties."
He called on every Indian person in the province to familiarize themselves with the terms of the Treaties, to uphold them, and to insist they be fulfilled.
"We must once and for all state our Treaty Rights simply and clearly so that we all, every single man, woman and child, know them and understand them, and believe them, so that when we are asked what they are, there is no confusion, no humming and hawing."
"Starting today we must memorize our rights and talk aloud about them, teach them to our children at home, and have them learned by our children in school. From now on, we must not give anyone a chance to make fun of them and not take our rights seriously as some people did a few years ago," he said.
The Chief presented delegates with a paper outlining the promises made Saskatchewan Indians in their Treaties. The paper described 12 treaty rights including the rights to education, economic and social development, health services and freedom from taxation. From now on, the Chief said, the rights described in the paper would be "our 12 commandments" and would be used to maintain consistency in efforts to have the rights recognized.
Chief Ahenakew also presented the Chiefs with a paper outlining government violations of the Treaties and said the paper would be "a guideline for our action to correct the wrongs and injustices."
Although the Treaties have often been threatened and violated by government, Indians themselves must share some blame, Chief Ahenakew said.
"We have violated them and interpreted them wrongly in some cases."
"Some groups of reserves in the province have become interested in one or two articles and forgot about the others."
"Some single reserves have demanded so much due to one Treaty Right that all other rights are pushed into the background."
"Some individual Indians have actually violated rights that belong to all of us."
Chief Ahenakew said Indian people cannot continue to distort the Treaties, over extend them or "use them as a crutch for our own inability to do things properly."
"We must now set the record straight not only with the government but with ourselves and work together and maintain consistency throughout the efforts."
The Chief promised to continue efforts to have the Treaty Rights recognized in law by being built into the Indian Act. The F.S.I. would continue fighting for "full recognition of Treaty Rights so that in future there can be no violation of Treaties," he said.
"This can only happen if our Treaties are passed into law by Parliament. At the present time our Treaties are in a legal no-man's land. They have been attacked and hurt by federal legislation by the courts, and by provincial laws."
"Our Treaties must be built into the Indian Act. In this way our Treaties will become laws and the Indian Act will be the vehicle to implement the Treaty terms. Then, finally the Indian Act will become our legislation, and not an act to carry out White policies, as it has, been doing up to now," Chief Ahenakew said.
He pointed to medical services as an issue, which is threatening the Indian's treaty rights.
A year ago Indian Health services issued a directive stating in effect that Indians who could pay for medical treatment or drugs would pay. Although the F.S.I. at the time won a reversal of the directive, the department of National Health and Welfare is continuing to press a policy of having Indian people pay for their medical services, Chief Ahenakew said.
"This continual attempt by that department shows the need for us to become united in our efforts to bring medical services and all services back into the Indian affairs department and under the Indian Act."
He said the Indian people of Saskatchewan must
Chief Ahenakew said he had been told that not all-Indian bands in Canada agree with transferring all services back under the Indian Act. However, "if the other provinces do not wish to support the single agency concept, then perhaps we should consider seriously having Indian affairs adapt the concept in Saskatchewan on a pilot project basis.
Another matter threatening the Indian's Treaty Rights is the issue of incorporation of Indian projects on Indian reserves, Chief Ahenakew said.
The Justice department is insisting that a band" incorporate before getting a loan, grant or economic development project. If this happens "it means taxes, indirect land mortgages, if not direct, and the setting up of another legal body which jeopardizes the authority of the band council," he said.
The F.S.I. has taken the position that a band is already a legal entity under the Treaties and the Indian Act and do not have to incorporate, Chief Ahenakew said.
He cautioned bands to have patience and move carefully "so that we don't make a hasty move for which we will be sorry and suffer the consequences in the future."
Although there may be bands with urgent projects ready now, "moving too quickly may mean winning a small battle now, but eventually losing the war," Chief Ahenakew said.