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Allmand Says White Bear Must Await Court Decision

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      SEPTEMBER 1977      v07 n09 p05  
REGINA - Settlement of a land claim to the former Harold Lees ranch in south-eastern Saskatchewan must await the outcome of a court case now underway in Regina, Indian affairs minister Warren Allmand said Aug. 24. The outcome of the court case will "make it clear-cut" whether the surrenders of the Ocean Man and Pheasant Rump reserves in 1902 were legitimate, Allmand said. Four residents of the White Bear reserve have filed with the Federal Court of Canada a statement of claim alleging the surrenders were invalid and "obtained by fraud".

The four men, James, Edward and Colin McArthur, and Percy Nahbexie, claim to be direct descendants of the Assiniboine Indians who were the occupants of the former reserves and who became members of the nearby White Bear band when the surrenders were made.

The men's lawyer Tom Waller, said recently it is unlikely the case will be heard by a Federal Court judge until next spring. Waller said he is still exchanging correspondence with the department of Indian affairs and a procedure known as an "examination for discovery" will likely take place this fall. The examination is a type of preliminary hear in where documents relating to the case are tabled.

Allmand, however, would not preclude the possibility of a negotiated settlement to the claim, whatever the legal outcome might be.

The department of Indian affairs' (DIA) office of native claims earlier rejected, on a technicality, a claim to the two former reserves by the White Bear band. And DIA officials now say a new claim by the band would be seriously considered.

In his recent trip to Saskatchewan, Allmand met with representatives of the band and the Medecine Wheel Ranch Company which has been established by band members to take over operations on the former Lees ranch which occupies 12,500 acres of the old reserves. The land is now held by the federal government, in anticipation of an outcome to the land claim favourable to the band.

Warren Allmand
Warren Allmand clearance

In a brief to the minister the Medecine Wheel Ranch Company urged that the DIA:

"We feel that by delaying a public commitment to the company, the department is giving undue credibility to the group of farmers in the Kisbey area who have acted unlawfully and irrationally in an attempt to sway the department from its responsibilities to the Indian people," the brief said.

The Kisbey-area farmers also met with Allmand and presented a brief which claimed transfer of the land to Indians would devalue adjoining lands. The farmers also claim the land will not be put to good use and local municipalities will lose tax revenue.

The Medecine Wheel brief described the farmers' concerns as "presumptuous and irrational."

"It is evident that they want the land for their own use and they do not relish the prospect of Indians for neighbours," the brief said.

The brief also strongly criticized the DIA for what it claimed was a delay in making final arrangements to lease the land to the Medecine Wheel company. It said departmental officials were bowing to pressure from the protesting farmers "forcing hopeful members of the company to face still another unproductive winter."

The brief said currently deplorable social conditions on the White Bear reserve originated in the decision to surrender the Ocean Man and Pheasant Rump reserves and move their residents to White Bear.

"The documentary evidence surrounding the alleged surrender would appear to show that in the interests of reaching an agreement with an American land company, it was department initiative which ultimately led to the move" and destroyed the people's agricultural self-sufficiency, the brief said.