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Indian Land Claims Being Developed Across Canada

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      JUNE 1974      v04 n05 p18  
Prince Albert - "My priorities are set by groups of Indian people that come forth with land claims problems," said Dr. Lloyd Barber, Indian Land Claims Commissioner, while a guest speaker at the Chiefs conference held in Prince Albert.

Indian bands across Canada are coming forward with well-researched land claims and violations of promises that are now either being negotiated or pursued through courts. "There is action and activity with claims of all types right across the country," he said.

In British Columbia, the provincial government is not admitting their responsibility toward Indians regarding land claims.

The Enoch Band, near Edmonton, has a very strong, well developed case that could have a strong impact on the rest of the claims. The land surrender claim of the Enoch Band was developed and is now under active negotiations by the band themselves.

Manitoba has several land claims issues with the Island LAKE Band's, the most advanced. The Island Lake Band is claiming more land. When the treaty was signed with these people, 640 acres per family of five was promised and the people of Island Lake received only 160 acres per family of five.

There are many smaller claims being negotiated besides the big claim of the James Bay people in Quebec.

The people of Nova Scotia have two cases hung up by the attitudes of the department, both will have considerable impact on the rest of the land claims by Indians, Dr. Barber said.

Land belonging to the Indian people of Nova Scotia had been occupied for many years before Confederation by outsiders. Some whites are causing pressure when they find out their land titles are not as good as they thought. The recognition of Indian land claims in that province is very muddled.

Third party involvement, as in the Nova Scotia cases, always prevent settlements. Progress is slow and complicated.

"I am the middleman between the government and the Indian bands involved."

"Claims that are well-developed and go through the right channels are still difficult for negotiations," he said. "Governments are usually co-operative and anxious to settle outstanding land claims, but there is always fear for the land involved."

Matt Bellegarde, District Representative for Meadow Lake, asked Dr. Barber "at what point in the land claims issue do you come in?" Dr. Barber explained, "I was appointed Land Claims Commissioner to bring forward the claims in such a way that they can be dealt with. I am the "middle man" between the government and the Indian bands involved." He is not hired by the federal government, but appointed by the Privy Council.

Chief Prosper of One Arrow, asked Dr. Barber "when a proposal is being set up, what population is used?" and "when a proposal set for claims is settled, does the land have to be private or Crown land?"

"There is no particular precedent set for population used, up to date populations are quite often used. Land around the claims area is usually Crown land held by the province. Indian Affairs has to negotiate with the province for the land. The "Natural Resources Act" passed by Parliament in the 1930's complicates the situation," he said.

Chief Harold Kingfisher of Sturgeon Lake, asked "what course of action can the people of his band take in reclaiming the land surrendered in 1932 that now has a summer resort built on it with most of the resort on the reserve."

"You must first pull together the necessary documents and information, then decide on the course of action needed," replied Dr. Barber.

Chief Solomon Sanderson of James Smith then asked Dr. Barber to cite some examples of grounds by which reserves could build land claims.

The first thing to do is to trace the history of the reserve using documents. The second is to get a legal opinion about the legality of interpretations given behaviour of the people. The third is to check into the trusteeship regarding the land that were surrendered under the treaties, should the trustee have acted the way he did?"

Depending on terms and conditions used, immoral actions could have been made legal, making the case a strong one to fight.

In closing, Dr. Barber announced the library now built in Ottawa on land claims for researchers and other interested people. There is a librarian on hand to help find the information needed.