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At a present conference held on the afternoon of Wednesday, January 10, F.S.I. Chief Albert Bellegarde and Sol Sanderson, First Vice-President, revealed startling results of research conducted into the land surrenders of the Pheasant's Rump #68, Ocean Man #69, and Chekastapasin #98 Reserves. In each of these cases it has been determined that high level Indian Affairs and other government officials conspired to obtain the lands on these reserves for themselves.
The story of these transactions reveals a serious breach of trust on the part of the Federal Government. In November of 1901 James A. Smart, the then Deputy Minister of Indian Affairs, and two other high level government officials in the Immigration Branch of the Department of the Interior, (Frank Pedley, who would become Deputy Minister of Indian Affairs the following year and Wm. J. White) submitted tenders for the purchase of the Ocean Man, Pheasant's Rump and Chekastapasin Indian lands. The lands in question were to be sold by public competition, but Mr. Smart used his position to practically prevent everyone except those with inside knowledge from a bid. In one case the public notice calling for tenders did not appear in the local newspaper until it was physically impossible to forward an offer to Ottawa before the deadline. But the Deputy Minister himself was not hampered by these, restrictions. A few days before the deadline Smart and Pedley prepared 440 individual tenders - lacking only signatures - in their government offices. These forms were then shipped to Toronto, where A.C. Bedford-Jones, Pedleys former law partner, forged the names of three Toronto barristers on the Pheasant's Rump and Ocean Man tenders, and persuaded a travelling salesman to sign those for the Chekastapasin Reserve. Smart's manipulation of the advertising was so effective that the bids that he had prepared were the only ones submitted for more than half of the quarter sections on the three reserves. All in all, the trio obtained 298 of the 308 quarters on the Pheasant's Rump and Ocean Man Reserves, and 70 of the 115 offered for sale on the Chekastapasin Reserve. Bedford Jones held these lands in a secret trust for Smart, Pedley and White, until they were re-sold to American speculators through the Canadian Government Immigration offices in the United States a few months later. The three government officials made a profit of over $65,000 on the transaction. In 1903, when Pedley was Deputy Minister, the process was repeated with the sale of 34 1/2 square miles of the Cumberland 100A Reserve. On that occasion the conspirators netted a further $18,000.
Assistant Commissioner Roy A Huher, a retired Director of the Laboratories and Identification Services Branch of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who has examined more than 20,000 questioned documents over the course of 30 years of experience in the forensic science field, and has testified before the courts as an expert witness in eight provinces and in the United States, was employed to examine the documents unearthed in the course of the research into these surrenders. He found that the tenders were prepared on four typewriters normally employed by Frank Pedley and James A. Smart, and that Bedford-Jones had forged the signatures on those submitted for the Pheasant's Rump and Ocean Man lands.
The research commissioned by the F.S.I. also revealed that the Indian bands in question did not surrender their lands willingly. In fact, in the ease of the Pheasants Rump Band, there is some evidence that the Indians did not agree to give up their land all, and that the surrender documents that were submitted, were forged. Having conspired for more than two years to obtain the reserves, Smart, Pedley and White were not prepared to let the opposition of a small band of Indians get in their way. The trio were almost stopped by some unexpected publicity, however. They had set up dummy syndicates in the United States to acquire the lands without public competition under the cover of a phoney immigration scheme. Certain aspects of the deal surfaced in the press, however, and Smart and his
Chief and representatives of the 25 bands with surrendered lands met in Regina on January 9 and 10, to discuss these findings and to be informed of the progress of the research on this issue as it relates to their own reserves. Armed with the backing of the Chiefs, F.S.I. Vice-President Sol Sanderson declared "we want the land back". Monetary compensation would not be sufficient to right the wrong that had been done to the Bands concerned he declared. Pointing to the time and money that had already been expended on the subject, and the enormous amount of work yet to be done, Sanderson affirmed: "It all has to lead us back to our land".
While the F.S.I. is confident that it has a strong case that could not be directly challenged in court, there are many pitfalls along that path. "We don't pretend to rely on the impartiality of the courts in matters such as these where there are historic and social issues at stake. We want to lead the government to the negotiating table," Sanderson said.
Albert Bellegarde... Chief of F.S.I.
Sol Sanderson... F.S.I. First Vice-President