|Previous Article||Next Article||FNPI Search||Home||Previous Year||Next Year||Year List|
Members of the band have registered in Ottawa a claim to about 12,000 acres of an 18,000-acre property which once constituted the Harold Lees ranch.
The land in question was part of the old Ocean Man and Pheasant Rump Indian reserves whose 46,000 acres were entirely surrendered by the resident bands in 1902 to open the land for white immigrant settlement.
Descendants of the two bands, now members of the White Bear band whose reserve is located on the south-east flank of Moose Mountain in the far south-east corner of Saskatchewan, claim the turn-of-the century surrender was improper and they want the land back.
And according to Emil Korchinski, DIA's regional director of operations; "there is a suspicion within the (DIA) bureaucracy the claim is legitimate."
That is why the department chose to purchase Lees' ranch in 1972 when the federal Industrial Development Bank foreclosed on the rancher's mortgage. The department wanted the land to be available should the anticipated land claim be approved.
An eviction notice was finally served against Lees by Estevan sherriff Don Henneberg in late June following a five-year long legal battle by Lees to retain the land.
The Kisbey-area farmers and ranchers opposing transfer of the land to Indians cite the loss of grazing land for their herds and loss of municipal tax revenue as specific reasons for their protest.
But some of them are also motivated by more general attitudes they hold about Indian people and hostility toward Indian land claims.
Lorne Fisher, a local landowner involved in organizing the opposition, referring to other impending Saskatchewan land claims, said "there's gotta be a stop to it some place, and it might as well be here."
"If they take this one, they'll take the' other million."
The federal government has recognized Saskatchewan Indian bands are entitled to at least one million acres more land to meet the government's longstanding treaty obligations. But this amount does not include lands-such as the White Bear claim-which might be acquired through challenges to illegitimately-obtained land surrenders.
Fisher said Indians would not put the land to good use, a view with which Clarence Hookenson, the local reeve, agreed. Hookenson cited alleged neglect of crop land on another nearby reserve to support his view.
But Joe Ewack, White Bear band administrator, said he finds the farmers' hostility puzzling.
The existing White Bear reserve has no arable crop land, but the land is appropriately used as either PFRA community pasture or resort property managed by the band's White Bear Lake Development Company.
And if the band's claim to the former Lees ranch is approved in Ottawa, the land will turned into "something useful to the band,"
[Continued Next Page]
The spark which set the Kisbey farmer protest ablaze was the serving of eviction notices to several farmers who grazed their cattle on Lees' land.
Some of these cattle were removed, including about 400 of 1,000 owned by the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool. But following discussions between sherriff Henneberg and DIA regional director Joe Leask, the local ranchers, excluding Lees, have been permitted to graze their cattle until fall round-up.
The dense summer brush on about half the land was given by Henneberg as one reason for the extension of grazing rights.
The White Bear band has so far not actively entered the dispute, leaving all discussion to the farmers and the DIA.
But the band is now establishing a company to manage the crop, hay and summer fallow lands located on the Lees land.
In addition, the band council has agreed the DIA will be able to let grazing permits to any ranchers it chooses until such time as the disposition of the land has been decided in Ottawa, said Korchinski.
Hookenson, reeve of the rural municipality of Brock-and also, incidentally, president of the province's largest agricultural association, the Saskatchewan Federation of Agriculture-said Brock and the neighbouring municipality of Hazelwood will each lose about $2,300 in municipal tax and about $1,800 in school taxes if the land becomes Indian reserve.
Korchinski acknowledged this, but deferred that the principle of tax exemption for Indian lands is a fact in Canada and a treaty right.
But he said the Crown will continue to pay grants in lieu of taxes equivalent to local taxes until the land becomes Indian reserve. The Crown would pay no compensation for loss of tax revenue if the land becomes a reserve, however.
He added the land would be available for selection by bands involved in the partial land entitlement process if the White Bear claim is ruled invalid.