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Saskatchewan Indians Live In Worst Socio-Economic Conditions Imaginable

Peter Harrington

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      APRIL 1978      v08 n04 p14  
Chief David Ahenakew told federal cabinet ministers in Regina that Saskatchewan Indians live under the worst socio-economic conditions imaginable.

In a brief submitted to Deputy Prime Minister Allan MacEachern, Andre Ouelette, Monique Begin, Marc Lalonde and Hugh Faulkner, the Chief dealt with Land Entitlements, General Band Development Agreement and the Deficit of the Department of Indian Affairs.

Ahenakew pointed out that Saskatchewan Indians have the lowest per capita income in Canada not exceeding $1,500. Racism is experienced in social, economic and spiritual areas, and Indians have had to put up with the inefficiency and incompetence of the Department of Indian Affairs.

"Numbers of Departmental employees increase, while their ability to provide services decreased", he said. He emphasized that quantity is not synonymous with quality in the department.

Ahenakew told the government that they must start assisting the Indians as you are obliged to do under the terms of the treaties and that assistance must begin now, before our leaders get too tired to carry on.

Ahenakew told the committee that he was not making the statement in order to intimidate them but as an expression of FEAR. Fear that if the federal government fails to live up to its historical promises and obligations, a very sad situation can emerge. The Chief hinted that if the federal government drags their feet on this issue, "it may be the final ingredient required to create an unrest we will all be blamed for."

Chief David Ahenakew and NIB President Noel Starblanket
Chief David Ahenakew presents FSI brief to Federal Cabinet members in Regina. NIB President Noel Starblanket listens closely.


Ahenakew suggested that others may say, "if the Indians are going to adopt this kind of attitude, then they are going to be losers.

"I say.. what else is new?

"We Indians have been LOSING since we first made contact with Europeans. We lost our lands in the early years... and we lost our lives..."And, we continue to be losers today. Our treaties are violated daily and for that reason, we, as leaders must DEMAND, not ask, that the Government of Canada, honour its Commitments to the Treaty Indian people of Saskatchewan."

He said, "the Indian people of Saskatchewan will no longer waste their time and effort trying to convince the government to honour and implement the terms, conditions and spirit of the treaties between our two nations."

Ahenakew told the government that they had failed in their commitments that were struck 100 years ago.

He pointed out the treaties and the Indians are going to be around as long as THE SUN SHINES, THE GRASS GROWS AND THE RIVERS FLOW. He said, "the treaties do exist and we know the spirit and intent of those agreements and they are not up for renegotiation." He quoted Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, by saying "you may be assured that My government of Canada recognizes the importance of full compliance with the spirit and terms of your treaties." "We will not allow any further abrogation of our treaties, nor will we further allow the distorted interpretations of the treaties by this countries civil servant," said Ahenakew.


Ahenakew outlined the formula agreed to on land entitlements. He pointed out the three broad categories of land including Provincial


Saskatchewan Indians Live In Worst Socio-Economic Conditions Imaginable

Peter Harrington

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      APRIL 1978      v08 n04 p15  

Crown Lands, Federal Crown Lands and Private lands. He suggested that since there seems to be a lag in the government process and unless the process is accelerated some Bands will be pressing strongly for utilization of Band population on the date of land survey completion instead of the December 31, 1976 date that was previously agreed to by all Bands.

He pointed out that land entitlement is guaranteed by treaties and is an obligation which the federal government must fulfil. Selection of the land is the exclusive prerogative of the Indians involved, although they can call on the federal government for technical expertise of the resources to retain such expertise.

Ahenakew stressed that land can be selected anywhere in the treaty areas, as provided for in the treaties. He said, "the federal government has the responsibility of clearing title to selected lands so that Indians can take possession. We surrendered it unencumbered and we want it back that way."

The Chief told the ministers that we are not going to be caught in the middle of the federal-provincial wrangling over who is responsible. The settlement cannot wait for 10 years. The situation demands that the already-recognized entitlement be settled now. Ahenakew said the Bands are prepared to wait a reasonable length of time for money to be made available for land purchase, but he called for the federal government to show the Bands some concrete action soon.

Ahenakew pointed out that after the Band selects the land, the federal government must deal with the transfers and possession without delay. If the Band feels there is insufficient provincial Crown land available then they will look to federal Crown land. Should this also be insufficient they will expect the balance to be purchases from private lands.


Chief Ahenakew pointed out that the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has a budget deficit of about 21 million dollars. Ahenakew said, "that nearly all programs are under-funded in terms of commitments at the beginning of the year. Although some increases are permitted throughout the year, this is never enough and there are never budget increases to Band-controlled developments and operations during the fiscal year."

Program managers are forced to compensate for anticipated deficits by reducing expenditures on so-called discretionary items such as, adult care, child care, post-school education and Band administered projects. These shortfalls often require the department to cut back on their established commitments and responsibilities.


These shortfalls can be only attributed to two possible causes... mismanagement of negligence and incompetence in the provision of finances," said Chief Ahenakew.

"The effects are tragic. There is


Part of Cabinet Committee
Part of Cabinet committee (left to right) - Hon. Monique Begin; Hon. Allan Marc Lalonde and DIAND Minister Hugh Faulkner.

Saskatchewan Indians Live In Worst Socio-Economic Conditions Imaginable

Peter Harrington

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      APRIL 1978      v08 n04 p16  

conflict between program managers and Indian leaders, some competent managers either become cynical or leave, BUT, however, the incompetent stay to consolidate their hold on senior positions with over-all competence becoming a continuous style," he said.

Other areas of problems include the evaporation of developmental money, payments are often being delayed near the end of the fiscal year, aggravating the problem on a yearly basis and controls become so detailed and inflexible as to make effective developmental programming impossible.

"Another area or concern," said Chief Ahenakew, "is that the department is constantly UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT and constantly RE-ORGANIZING." Then there are jurisdictional disputes with the department passing their responsibilities off on to the province as was envisaged in the 1969 white paper.


Ahenakew pointed out the gap between the pupil allotment in education in Saskatchewan of $1,500 as compared to Manitoba's $2,200. Treasury Board approves $2,300 for joint schools but allocates only $1,500. School enrolment is always under-estimated with the additional cost coming from established programs.

He said, "Bands must arrange bank loans to continue with education and social assistance programs and the fact there are no funds for either on-going or new economic development projects, and education capital is unable to keep up with the provision of INTERIM facilities in the North.

"Teachers," said Ahenakew, "have a 26 per cent pay increase approved by Treasury Board, but the same Board neglects to allocate any funds to cover the increase." Money for joint schools is allowed $2,500 while Band schools get only $1,000 or less and maybe $1,500 to students attending school at home.

Ahenakew told the ministers that in 1978 - 79 adult education will revert to being CONTROLLABLE FOR INDIANS, while the federal-

FSI brief is read to Federal Cabinet Committee
FSI brief is read to Federal Cabinet Committee, as committee listens closely to Chief David Ahenakew and NIB President Noel Starblanket.

Saskatchewan Indians Live And Worst Socio-Economic Conditions Imaginable

Peter Harrington

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      APRIL 1978      v08 n04 p17  

provincial funding formula commits increases for non-Indians.

In the area of community affairs, Ahenakew said, "the allocation for 1978/79 will consider only social assistance to be statutory and this must be fully covered off before any other commitments are made. Welfare has the priority and there is no provision for alternatives."

Ahenakew suggested that the only explanation is a deliberate attempt to SUBVERT, UNDERMINE OR DESTROY THE INDIAN POLITICAL PROCESS. Indian Affairs Minister Hugh Faulkner totally discounted this during his rebuttal later. Ahenakew said, "it is a counterproductive measure, considering that our prime, and only objective is to create an environment in which Saskatchewan Indians can move rapidly towards an equitable position within the broad milieu of Canadian Society."

Ahenakew laid out some recommendations that could be more desirable and potentially more productive. He said, "the current deficit must be cleared with new funds, an adjustment, based on accurate costing must be made to the 1978/79 budget, a new planning and budgeting system based on Band-based budgets for all programs and services, regardless whether they be delivered by the Bands or the Department and the Department's staffing and overhead requirements become a direct administration cost to Canada with the monies not being taken out of appropriated monies for the use and benefit of Indians." Ahenakew pointed out that civil servants are of no benefit to the Indian people and the outrageous administration costs are an outrageous waste.


The next item of discussion was the Interim General Band Development Agreement which is supposed to be complete sometime in April, 1978.

Chief Ahenakew outlined the history behind the concept by reminding the Federal Cabinet Minister that in June, 1975, 68 Chiefs of the Federation, their executive, district representatives and senators travelled to Ottawa to meet with federal cabinet ministers, the senate and opposition regarding the general direction of Indian Policy and more particularly the series of "guidelines" which has been issued by the Department of Indian Affairs.

"We didn't go to Ottawa just to complain", Ahenakew said. "We submitted some very concrete and workable alternatives to the Indian policy of the day. Basically we were calling for a unified, consistent and predictable management and administrative structure for the delivery of programs for and services to Indians in Saskatchewan.

"We illustrated, through a host of damning socio-economic data, the failure of Indian Policies since Confederation." Ahenakew said that, "we demonstrated that, in the absence of any clear and identifiable alternative, the civil servants were still using the 1969 white paper, although the government had publicly rejected it. In doing this the federal government did not present any other workable, positive and concrete alternative.

"As a result of this trip and also meeting with the Hon. Judd Buchannan and Otto Lang, a committee was established between DIAND and the FSI to approach this problem. It was agreed that this approach would not only fill what Indians viewed as a POLICY VACUUM in Indian Affairs, but also satisfy the needs, aspirations and priorities being articulated by the 68 Bands in Saskatchewan," he said.

However, this did not work because of the resistance in various departments at the civil servant level. The recommendations were never acted upon.

Buchannan and Allmand expressed a continuing interest in further consideration of a SASKATCHEWAN PILOT PROJECT that would test alternative methods of delivering services and managing programs for Indians, seeking to bring about better co-ordination, greater efficiency and maximized benefits from the expenditures of public funds.

Ahenakew told the committee that he had been meeting with Indian Affairs, DREE, Manpower and Immigration and National Health for about a year. All were agreed that a coordinated effort was necessary and that the SASKATCHEWAN PILOT PROJECT had great promise and potential. But, no one was prepared to propose a specific program or make any commitments.

At various times over the past two years the province of Saskatchewan has stated its willingness to participate in an agreement such as we are proposing, however, they feel that the initiative must come jointly from the federal government and the FSI.

Cabinet Ministers have been approached for over a year, and in April 1977, Chief Sol Sanderson met with the Prime Minister to discuss this matter.

After much discussion over the past several months, an agreement in principle was reached to pursue the implementation of a General Band Development Agreement based on the Chiefs' policy documents and proposed strategy which we put forward.

Agreement would offer programs in three sectors to include, Resources and Community Economic Development, Human Development and Community Services and Transportation and Reserve Infrastructure.

Under Resources and Community Economic Development there would be community planning, socio-economic development, Saskatchewan Indian bank, energy and re-


Saskatchewan Indians Live In Worst Socio-Economic Conditions Imaginable

Peter Harrington

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      APRIL 1978      v08 n04 p18  

sources council and Indian policy development.

Human Resources and Community Services would offer, band policing, Indian band government administration training, core funding, Indian adult education, Indian judicial system, social services facilities and planning and Saskatchewan Indian Colleges.

In the area of Transportation and Reserve Infrastructure, such items as sewer and water installation, road construction and improvement, cultural and recreational facilities, health clinics, education facilities and housing would be offered.

The agreement received acceptance in principle and was announced at the January All-Chiefs Conference. During the same conference the Hon. Gordon MacMurchy announced support of the provincial government in pursuing these same goals.

Ahenakew said, "the proposal could be implemented if there was POLITICAL WILL on the part of the government." The Chief told the ministers that a number of civil servants will resist the new directions and this was apparent during February when civil servants were prepared to resist Indian initiatives right down the line.

Ahenakew said that, "the past has seen, and the present is characterized by a clear attempt to merge Indian political systems with the federal bureaucratic systems." He told the group, that it is the obvious intention to make Indian Band Councils nothing more than municipal administrative arms of the federal administration.


Ahenakew said that, "Indian communities and Indian leaders must be respected as political and treated accordingly. The current attempt to assimilate Indian political systems within the federal bureaucratic systems must stop."

He said, "that many civil servants are guarding mandates and jurisdiction and creating a FORTRESS MENTALITY of many of these civil servants."

He called on the Federal Minister to reject being co-opted by this FORTRESS MENTALITY of many civil servants. He told them it will take strong and firm direction from each one and from your cabinet colleagues to facilitate the implementation of this approach.

Ahenakew requested a commitment from each cabinet minister present both individually and collectively.