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Ahenakew Renews Challenge Of One Agency Concept

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      APRIL 1976      v06 n04 p15  
FSI Chief Dave Ahenakew In his opening speech at the three-day All Chiefs Conference, FSI Chief Dave Ahenakew, renewed his challenge to Saskatchewan Indian Chiefs, to support the Single Agency Concept as a means to protect Treaty Rights.

Chief Ahenakew said the Single Agency; to deliver all services to Indian people through the department was born out of conflict and crisis with the government.

"We have been part of a bitter conflict, between Indian people and the government which has seen us take strong and united positions against the '69 White. Paper, forced payment of our medical premiums in Saskatchewan, taxation, the loss of our treaty right to hunt, fish and trap, and transfer to our right of education to the province."

"The F.S.I. has had to take up the responsibility of protecting our special rights, status and lands, a responsibility that properly belongs to our trustee, the Federal Government."

"Often Indian people have found themselves reacting to government moves which would eliminate our special status difference." Chief Ahenakew said the Single Agency Concept gives the opportunity to consult with the federal government on intended action.

"Several Bands in the province have criticized the concept since they believe the single agency concept means Indian control instead of federal trust responsibility."

Chief Ahenakew reminded the delegates that at the annual conference last year, the whole assembly passed a resolution on the single agency, which called for the Executive to ensure that there is a commitment to "Indian Control of the Single Agency."

He conceded the wording was vague leaving some leaders questioning what Indian Control means. He said if the wording was unsuitable, then it should be amended at this meeting.

"Surely we're not asking for Indian Control in the sense that Indians should takeover Federal Trust responsibility and put it in the F.S.I. To do that," he said, "would destroy the traditional original relationship between the Queen, the federal government and Indians."

"We're trying to make sure that the responsibility rests squarely on the shoulders of our department. We're trying to make our department the single responsible co-ordinating body for our Treaties, and our Indian Act so that total development of our people can begin to happen in a way that is consistent with the Treaties."

"Adopting the Single Agency Concept would mean an end to the threat to our Band Government systems posed by the laws, policies and regulations, of other governments, agencies and departments. By having a single agency and one Act, the Indian Act, we will be telling our agency to ensure that all other departments and their regulations comply with our Indian Act before services or programs for Indians are provided."

"This will end the present Federal approach which has the effect of fragmenting our reserves."

Chief Ahenakew also reviewed treaties and the celebrations planned for Treaty 6. "The 100th anniversary of Treaty 6 represents 100 years of; broken promises. The celebrations also represent the total effect on all our people of the government's failure in the past 100 years to act with sincerity and conviction for the benefit of Indian people." he said.

"But Indian people are not blameless either. This past 100 years also records our own failure to get involved in the changes that were happening to us. Instead we sat back, and in too many cases, blindly trusted that our government would do us no' harm." he said.