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Chief Rod Okemow Refuses Treaty Gifts

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      AUGUST 1976      v06 n08 p38  
Chief Rod King of the Lucky Man Band Chief Rod King of the Lucky Man Band refused medallions for himself and his members of the Band Council at the ceremonies commemorating the signing of 6.

Chief Rod King said was a profound regret that he could not, in the name of his people, accept the presentation of the medallions from Chief Justice Emmett Hall, representing the Crown. The ceremonies were held at Beardy's Reserve west of Duck Lake.

I have asked my brother Chiefs' to let me say a few words on this occasion. I would like to speak for a few moments about this situation in which I and the members of my band, find ourselves in 1976, one hundred years after the signing of Treaty 6.

My band once numbered 872 people. Today there are 48 of us. We are scattered throughout this province, on different reserves, in cities, and living under conditions which "civilized" people would not tolerate were they forced to endure them. We too are civilized people, with a culture and a tradition, of momental courage and perseverance, of great bravery and greater suffering. In this "civilized" country, we have become refugees. We have crossed no frontiers, we have no foreign passports, yet we, like many other nations, have no country. My band has no reserve.

The fundamental rights which were promised to my forefather, Chief Lucky Man, in July, 1879, have never been honoured. Men came from the Queen, they promised us land, housing, education, health care and treaty money. In ninety-seven years, the most fundamental of all human rights has never been granted to us. There is a litany of broken promises which has followed us through the years you offer respect, flags and medals, it is meaningless and empty for me and my people. We are like the unknown soldier, buried in Westminster Abbey. He is honoured by all people. How much better for that honoured soldier if his own people could honour him in rest.

My band is without a home. We are squatters on the reserves where we live, without a voice in the councils of those reserves, without land, without pride of place or possession, without future for the generations of our people who may survive.

We are here today to honour Treaty #6. To revive our culture, not for the white man to enjoy, and go home and forget about, but that our own children may know where from they spring. Men have come again from the Queen, I ask these men here today, if they will honour the Treaty signed by Chief Lucky Man, ninety-seven years ago, will my people have a home, and honour and a future. We, who have no home, ask in the name and spirit of Treaty #6, that this treaty now be honoured, and our rights granted.

I would like to quote from a book by Chief George, something which expresses our feelings, and which has relevance here today -

"We have diminished in numbers and paid for our past with sorrow and pain of which no generation of native people is without it's share. We have suffered much, now we stand to lose all, unless we preserve whatever is left from the days of our ancestors.

There is longing in the heart of my people to reach out and grasp that which is needed for our survival. There is longing among the young of my nation to secure for themselves and their people the skills which will provide them with a sense of worth and purpose. They will be our new warriors. Their training will be much longer and more demanding than it was in the olden days. The long years of study will demand more than determination, separation from family will demand endurance. But they will emerge with their hands held forward, not to receive welfare, but to grasp the place in society that is rightly ours.

"I am Chief, but my power to make war is gone, and the only weapon left to me is speech. It is on with tongue and speech that I can fight my people's war."

"Ladies and gentlemen, we have nothing left to preserve from the days of our ancestors except Treaty #6. It is with profound regret that I cannot, in the name of my people, accept your presentation to me today. It is only with tongue and speech that I can ask, after ninety-seven years, that the treaty, which we honour today, be honoured by your government, and the people of the Pap-A-Way Band receive the reserve they were promised so long ago. I thank you."