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When isolated reserves are discussed, one immediately thinks of the far north, or reserves excisable only by air. One of the most isolated reserves in teams of its relationship with other Indian communities and the sources of power is the Nikaneet Reserve in the southwestern corner of the province.
Nikaneet Reserve has a population of 150 and is situated about 17 miles southwest of Maple Creek.
This land is chiefly ranching country, but as yet there are only two people that have cattle operations on this reserve.
The roads on this reserve are of very poor quality. Only recently the Department of Indian Affairs have built a road on the reserve. During rainy weather, the roads are still impossible.
There was a school constructed on this reserve in 1957. This school was in operation until 1963, when it was closed by the Department of Indian Affairs because of transportation and road problems incurred by the teachers. Since then, the children are bussed to the town of Maple Creek for their education. There has been only one grade 12 graduate from this reserve and she is presently the Band Administrator.
This band was neglected for many years. The services for this band were issued from Fort Qu'Appelle Indian Affairs, which is 320 miles away. Only in 1963 were they recognized as Treaty Indians, but no payment as yet has been received. Their last annuity payment was in 1882.
As one band member pointed out, "One of the good things about being neglected is the fact that all of the members have retained their native tongue." On the cultural side, they have retained the ceremonial Sundance and Rain Dance. The children on this reserve speak Cree before they learn English.
There is only one telephone on this reserve to serve the needs of all the people along with one house that has a water system.
Some of the developments that will be sponsored this fall and winter are:
These projects can be considered as phase one of a community rehabilitation program which will involve improved community facilities, individual alcoholism treatment, recreation programs, and the provision of educational and employment opportunities.
This reserve is just being granted local government and control of its own program, so the band hall and office are of dire necessity.
By trying to involve nearly the, whole community in this effort, they hope to create some community spirit and encourage the people to be self-supporting, as this whole project will employ about 28 people from the band.
Under the Saskatchewan Indian Agriculture Program, they are applying for a loan for two ranchers and a grant for a band pasture operation. The band pasture would consist of fencing, land clearing, water systems, cattle sheds, and corrals. This is still in the talking stage and approval should be forthcoming.
Claim of Treaty Entitlement by the Maple Creek Band
During the early months of 1968, considerable research was done by the Department of Indian Affairs, concerning the Maple Creek, Band. That research supports the conclusion that the Nikaneet Band is a signatory to Treaty 4. This conclusion has been proven again by the Treaty Research Division of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians (FSI).
Treaty payments were received by their ancestors for eight years following the signing of Treaty 4. The last payment made to them was in 1882. And foremost, man had been promised a reserve for his band in 1881 and 1884.
But the government denied Treaty entitlement after 1881-82 in order to force the band to move from the Cypress Hills area. Foremost Man refused to move. The government until 1968, refused to recognize their treaty status and the' right to treaty entitlement.
The Maple Creek Band want the land entitlement as described by Treaty 4. It has only 3,040 acres presently and a membership of 130 people, therefore 16,640 more acres are needed to fulfill their land entitlement.
Also the federal government has denied the band the use of an adequate land base which they were entitled to for 93 years. And the land they now have is .not an economic base for any development. This land is not useful for farming or ranching. So therefore, land allotted now must provide for the economic base promised by the treaty.