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Huge Transfers Anticipated: Will Indians Obtain Land Ottawa Owes?

Geoff White

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      MARCH 1977      v07 n03 p24  
Hundreds of thousands of acres of Saskatchewan land could pass in the hands of Indian bands as a result of current land claims negotiations between the federal and provincial governments and the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians (FSI).

The land transfers would meet commitments made by the federal governments to Indians in the Treaties - commitments which to date have not been wholly fulfilled.

Of the 25 bands which the FSI contends have unfulfilled land entitlements, the department of Indian affairs has now recognized 15 as legitimate, although the department and the FSI have not yet settled on the size of each respective claim.

But the FSI treaty research program now estimates more than 780,000 acres of additional reserve lands are involved in the claims Indian affairs has recognized. And the amount might exceed one million if further entitlements can be proved.

Both the provincial government and Indian affairs minister Warren Allmand have agreed to a formula which will be used when calculating the land each band is eligible to receive. The formula is: the band population as of Dec. 31, 1976 multiplied by 128 (acres per person) minus the land already received.

But Allmand told FSI and provincial officials at a recent meeting in Ottawa the formula must also have formal cabinet approval.

The land transfers may involve large sums of money, and before the federal Treasury Board will approve expenditures to meet unfulfilled entitlements it must first have a formal cabinet decision, Allmand said.

The minister told FSI officials he would try to get a cabinet decision by March 1, but to date no word has been received.

The chief obstacle in the path of a full settlement of outstanding land claims may be who will pay for the privately-held lands which may have to be purchased in southern Saskatchewan.

Under the Natural Resources Transfer Agreement of 1930, which transferred natural resources to provincial from federal jurisdiction, the province is obliged to supply from unoccupied Crown lands, the land necessary fill treaty commitments.

In northern Saskatchewan, where unoccupied Crown land abounds, the province is prepared to hand over whatever land is necessary to fulfil the Treaties.

In a letter to FSI Chief David Ahenakew last August, Ted Bowerman, the minister responsible for land entitlement negotiations, said the province wants "to satisfy claims of northern bands as expeditiously as possible. The province is prepared to consider all reasonable requests for land.

At the Ottawa meeting Bowerman told Allmand Saskatchewan is prepared to transfer lands of substantial economic value, including those having hydro-electric potential or mineral reserves. He said the Natural Resources Transfer Agreement does not oblige the province to relinquish lands of value, but it is willing to do so in the interests of Indian people.

In southern Saskatchewan, the situation does not as readily offer a solution.

The provincial government has pointed out there are virtually no unoccupied Crown lands in the southern half of the province. In fact, there was nearly none in l930 when resources control was passed to the province.

Where unfulfilled land entitlements must be settled in southern Saskatchewan, the province has proposed that federal and provincial Crown lands be made available. These lands could include community pastures, timber reserves or other government-owned land of economic value.

However where Crown lands are not available, the purchase of privately-held land will be necessary.

The province has taken the position that the federal government is solely responsible for the purchase of private lands to meet its treaty commitments.

But Allmand told the Ottawa meeting "we agree that where Crown land is not available, land should be purchased. But this should be negotiated between Canada and Saskatchewan,"...and a cost-sharing agreement worked out.

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Huge Transfers Anticipated: Will Indians Obtain Land Ottawa Owes?

Geoff White

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      MARCH 1977      v07 n03 p25  
"I have to work with people who'll say it's a lot easier to give Crown lands than it is to commit tax dollars," Allmand said, defending his initiative to first obtain a formal cabinet decision.

In turn, Bowerman said any proposal which calls on the province to cost-share land purchases would have to be discussed by the provincial cabinet and result in further delays to the claims settlements.

Will Indians Obtain Land Ottawa Owes?

Land Entitlements