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The Shellbrook Indian Agency was to open its doors on December 1, 1975, however delays in getting man-years and staff for the agency set the actual opening back to January 5, 1976.
The agency consists of four bands, which are Sandy Lake, Witchekan Lake, Pelican Lake, and Big River. Four years ago, the four bands and two others had an agency office at Shellbrook. At that time, they were approached by I.A.B. to join and form the Saskatoon District.
They agreed to give Saskatoon District a try for a two-year trial period. At that time, the option was left for them to return to the agency if the service did not improve. After four years, the four bands passed resolutions and petitions amongst their own individual bands to have the agency re-established at Shellbrook. These resolutions were then forwarded to Ottawa and Regional Office, where their request was approved, but not without some resistance on the part of the department.
In re-establishing this agency, Chief Paul Ahenakew of Sandy Lake, said the four bands hoped to strengthen their Treaties. The whole idea is not to go back into the past, but rather to use the Treaties in a modern way to work hand in hand with Indian Affairs.
For instance, the Treaties and Indian Act make no mention of District Supervisors or District Managers, and the agency bands use the old terms "Agency" and "Agency Superintendent" to be consistent with the law.
Another thing the four Chiefs are considering is how to set up the budget system so that proposals of the individual band's priorities are looked at by the department rather than a dollar figure in a budget. These needs on the priority list would then be approved as projects and funded to completion.
Chief Paul Ahenakew stressed that in order to make a success of this procedure for projects, the band and department must work together closely to ensure that monies provided by the department are used wisely and economically.
The four Chiefs were quite pleased with the meeting. The agency's relationship to Saskatoon District was cleared up by Mr. Leask. Saskatoon's only relationship to the agency up to March 31, 1976, will be to receive notice from the bands about how they want their capital monies spent and Saskatoon District will do the book-work necessary to carry out their duties.
Otherwise spending approval and dialogue is to be strictly between the Agency Superintendent, Harold Woodsworth, the four bands, and the Regional Office, with only an information copy to Saskatoon to let them know where to do the book-work.
Chief Paul Ahenakew was impressed with Mr. Leask and described him as being an understanding and co-operative man.