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I too want to welcome you to the 21st. General Assembly of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians.
I want to thank the Chiefs, representatives, staff and band councils for the support you gave us throughout this year. It was a very trying year. It is a year that saw many activities take place throughout the province and across Canada. I suppose we would like to think of it as a year where we've had the most interaction between bands.
When we made the trip to England, chiefs came out in force to be there. We attended the Indian Government Development Workshop in Montreal. Several chiefs were present at the National Indian Brotherhood General Assembly.
In Winnipeg, it made me feel proud to be part of the Saskatchewan movement when at that conference we had economic development discussions, education discussions, land discussions. Several areas were zeroed in on by the National Indian Brotherhood for specific discussions and many bands sent representatives and staff members to that conference.
In Saskatchewan this year, we had no less than 35 workshops on treaty interpretation throughout the province of Saskatchewan and your bands collectively got together and we had individual workshops as well.
I want to say myself that I have sincerely missed the late Albert Bellegarde. We as an executive have pledged ourselves to continue the kind of work that he wanted to see done. The main objective was to get the action of the F.S.I. under the control of the chiefs in this province. We have continued to move that direction and as you know in our discussions with you we intend to bring the action under the direct control of the chiefs in every area of this province.
I would like to congratulate the new chiefs and councils and I'd like to let you know that the F.S.I. offices are open to assist in the struggles and frustrations that you meet daily.
Today, I want to discuss with you the various options which are yours to examine and must be addressed. I ask you to seriously think about these areas today, tomorrow and in the work that lies ahead.
I'd like to touch on now, the issues that impact on the serious crossroads we are at. The kind of issues that have laid on your shoulders as our leaders - A huge responsibility and a sacred trust. First, we have the discussions going on regarding the constitution - the British North America Act.
a) the present government is still committed to bring home the constitution. The Prime Minister of Canada says it is not a priority with his government, but people are still pushing to see that constitution is brought to Canadian soil.
b) our position paper that was prepared on the trip to England in support of the National Indian Brotherhood calls for the entrenching of treaty rights in any new constitution. It calls for the ratification of treaty rights by parliament. I would like to thank the elders for being involved fully in preparing this position.
c) in considering further the kinds of things that we have to look at regarding the constitutional changes that are being considered and the discussions that are going on. When we signed the treaty, we had the full political status and the powers of a nation. And I don't want to forget that. More so, I don't want Canada to forget that and it is that status that we must assert in our discussion on the constitution, no less status that what we had at the time of signing of treaty in terms of our political status will be sufficient. So, I ask you what is that political status?
d) another area we have to seriously consider in discussing the constitution, the treaties, Indian legislation, Indian/Dene/Dakota government areas is that area of the definition of "Indian". Prime Minister Clark said you can't sit at the table as the 12th government because you only represent a race of people - Indian. Indian is not a racial definition - Indian is a nationality in the same category as Canadian is. In the same category as British is. And under the national definition of Canadian, we have various groups called Ukrainians, Germans, French, English and so on. Indian is not a racial definition because Indian is a definition that fits into the national category and we have under the definition of Indian nationality - Cree, Ojibwa, Saulteaux, Bloods you name the different tribes that exist under the definition. It is a far cry from being that of a racial definition. We must address that area.
e) full recognition of treaty and aboriginal rights is what we have been fighting for in Saskatchewan. It is what we have been calling for nationally. The prior government has said they will take steps to recognize treaty rights fully. At the last meeting with Prime Minister Clark on September 28, he said that his government was committed to recognize treaty rights and aboriginal rights. He said that he would not look at our participation in the constitutional discussions as a 12th government at the table but he was prepared to look at negotiating Indian political rights. I say to you that Indian political rights are not for negotiations. We can afford no less than our treaties being entrenched in the new constitution with our Indian political status, in fact, if there is to be a change in the B.N.A. Act for our children can afford nothing else.
Second, is the area of Indian legislation. We are moving from an era of "Termination" to that of "Self-determination". By self-determination, I am not talking about the government's plans to establish "local government". I am talking about self- determination in the recognition of the political status and the powers of our chiefs and councils. That same status that we enjoyed at the signing of treaty. I am talking about taking over of programs that are the government's trust responsibility under treaty. Yes, we need Indian legislation but in a much broader sense than what has been available to us today. First of all, in the areas of Indian legislation, we must begin to look at our own legislation to identify and exercise our own powers. Without that we will continue to be dependent on the minister of Indian Affairs for everything. The second area we must consider when we talk about Indian legislation is that a wide range of complimenting federal-provincial legislation in recognition of our authority and our treaty rights. I think it is ridiculous for government to expect our chiefs to be able to govern under the treaty. The broad range of responsibility that you have as leaders under the treaty using one single piece of legislation called the Indian Act. What I am suggesting is that there is a series of Indian legislation that is required from the federal government in Canada and complimenting legislation from the various provincial governments. The third area is the whole issue of the status of our treaties. We have been recently accused of not exercising the responsibility in the Federation of asserting treaty rights. I want to discuss with you some of the areas that are of concern.
I am pleased to report today that those kinds of terms are being widely used across Canada in our own province here in Saskatchewan.
But what I want to emphasize at this moment is that I have covered 4 areas with you - the B.N.A. Act, the Treaties, Indian Legislation and Indian/Dene/Dakota government. We cannot afford to move on any one issue in isolation of the four. I'll give you one example - if we move on the Indian Act Amendments as proposed by the Department of Indian Affairs, they are setting up what they call Indian tribal government. The status of that is no less, no more, than Indian municipal status. So, in considering any of the changes in those areas, we must address all four areas at once but that's not an easy task.
Now, I want to turn to the more immediate issues and concerns that you have. The area of Land Entitlement: the policy of the government to date has been to put off any land entitlement movement; addressing any entitlement issues until after the Federal Election, after the Provincial election; in some cases, after your band elections and now until after F.S.I. election. We have moved to structure a system so that the elections won't have any impact on dealing with those Indian Land Entitlements and Land generally.
In the area of land surrenders; we have worked through the various committees of Chiefs because each of the specific land surrenders in various areas are unique in their own way and we are working through those Chiefs to advance those and the Federal government has now adopted the position that we wanted them to and that is that they are prepared to negotiate land surrenders rather than go the court route because of the expense involved and because we are not necessarily bound by the court decision being that we are party to the treaty agreements and the signing of the treaties and that the kind of decision that would be rendered by the court would be limited to cash only and we are after return of the lands.
We are working with the Indian Veteran's Association to complete a Veteran's entitlement. It is a sad case to look at when you consider the kinds of lands made available under the soldier's settlement board to the Non-Indian Veterans. And across Canada there is only 6 Indian Veterans that received Land Entitlement under the soldier's settlement board.
The Government, to add insult to injury, decided to take and expropriate 89,000 acres from 5 bands in Saskatchewan for the purposes of providing land to soldiers, returned veterans. In 2 cases, not one acre of that land went to Indian Veterans. We will work through the Chief and those bands to address the return of those lands.
We have 11 more bands that have been researched for validation and we will form a committee of those bands to negotiate their entitlement and the validation of their lands and the Minister is prepared to meet with those Chiefs too.
I talked about the area of rights under treaty, in relation to special Indian lands. Now, the special Indian lands that are guaranteed under treaty in addition to the 128 acres per person.
We must address the area of fishing station rights because some bands have never selected their fishing stations under the treaty. That gives us access to territorial water rights that we are having problems with in relation to the fisheries regulations.
We must address the area of our gathering land rights, for harvesting of fruit, herbs, wild rice, etc. We must address the area of hunting and trapping territories and lock those into place under the treaty, and certainly the government of Saskatchewan is bound by the 1930 natural resources agreement to recognize that.
Some bands have begun to move in that area, and these are Indian lands over and above the 128 acres per person, and this does not restrict you from exercising the rights in treaty areas.
Under the treaty, we are guaranteed our sacred burial grounds, our hay meadows, our special economic agricultural lands and our treaty grounds. We are creating a special unit to be able to handle and address with the bands the locking in of those lands because there is limited land that is available as you well know.
Another area is that of services. Services to our people in the communities has been a long-standing issues in my rounds and discussing with you as Chiefs and other leaders of this province. It is difficult to accept the still inadequate housing, poor health and sanitary services, the lack of funding for roads, recreation and just the daily basic needs of our people in our reserves and that has expanded to our cities now.
I think its a disgrace that Canada should take a serious look at. It's mockery of our treaties. It certainly doesn't provide for the level of living standards guaranteed under our treaties for our members.
At this assembly, we are looking at tabling a resolution that will redirect many funds available from the government agencies both federally and provincially to zero in on housing, sewer and water, roads, recreation facilities and so on.
The climate is right once again for government to take a serious look and deliver the services much better than they have. The federal government said to us if you can find some way of getting rid of all those administrative services that are available they would listen. For example to build one house, you have to go to 5 different federal agencies, but the money is there. The provincial government on friday announced to us that they are prepared to put monies into housing, sewer and water, roads and more into recreation. And we asked the honourable Gordon McMurchy to elaborate on that with you tomorrow afternoon. The resolution that we are tabling with you is asking you to give us some mandate to address these areas with you. We have not had a formal resolution from the provincial assembly. We have been asked by the various districts of the province to become involved in that concern.
One more immediate area of concern and that is the status of women. The membership issue regarding Indian women. The government, as you know, announced that they are going ahead regardless of what our position is and what we are going to say. That we will consult you but it's been on the books too long and they call it discrimination. Again, a definition of Indian racial definition comes up. If we
We asked the Minister of Indian Affairs and the Prime Minister to put a freeze on the termination of women pending further discussions and legislation that is appropriate. We asked him to consider the international law that is there to protect Indian citizenship rights, under the principals for the need for Canada to recognize the indigenous people constitution.
In the area of taxation: We have had a lot of difficulty in the whole area of taxation. We want to table with you a couple of resolutions dealing with taxation. First of all, no matter where we are employed, we are asked to fill out tax forms to declare our income and so on. Those tax forms we say we can be filled out, but this is the area I want you to consider seriously: we will file those with the band offices that our different band members come from. Just to remind the government that you have jurisdiction and you only, under the treaties for taxation of Indians.
The other area is that of the universal treaty card. Doug Cuthand will cover that one more fully in the report on the resolutions.
The Chief's salaries. You asked us to work on Chief's salaries. We looked at the Chief's responsibilities under the treaty. Not under the Indian Act, we looked at them under the treaty. The Chief's salaries in 1876 was $25.00 per year. Taking the inflationary costs and every kind of area that affects the dollar, those now come out to $25,000 per year. We have been around to districts to discuss the whole area of Chief's salaries and we've discussed fully with the Senate. The Senate has said we haven't gone far enough. They want us to move further. We are negotiating the Chief's salaries at $25,000 per year, but we are also going to continue to negotiate for the band men at $15,000 to $18,000 per year. We are also going to negotiate for the staffing of the Chief's office. We are looking to upgrade the status of the Chief's office to the point where it is no less recognized than an M.L.A.'s office or an M.P.'s office. We can pay those kind of people to go around extracting the same resources that we need to benefit from and they're on salary year round. We're looking at this in addition to the core funding that's available to the bands now, but we're also looking and negotiating an increase in the core funding and staff salaries. These areas are guaranteed under the treaty and we'll be tabling a resolution for your consideration and discussion in that area.
The reorganization of the F.S.I. It is a general consensus now throughout Saskatchewan that the organization is in a real need of reorganization. Some Chiefs are calling for a committee to be struck to look at and review and propose and recommend reorganization of the F.S.I. Based on those discussions with you as leaders, we have prepared a resolution to deal with that issue. Some of the areas that were of concern: First of all, the committee; we are recommending that the Chiefs, that there be a committee of Chiefs, the Senate and the Executive and the past Presidents.
The area of program administration as it affects our organization. We have discussed with you at length at your district chief's meetings, those areas and now we want to move to put those responsibilities under you in each of the areas throughout the province so that you control the staffing, you control the policy developments, you control the area that you are interested in being involved in.
I must warn you that there are Anti-Indian government people around, Anti-Dene government people around. These people will play right into the hands of government. There are also Anti-Indian development people around and I told you this at the last conference that we held. But we need to get into the Indian business and industry. We need to be able to control some of those developments. Three-quarters of our rights guaranteed under treaty are economic rights.
Lastly, I would just like to say that I have a feeling of optimism. The reason for that is because the negative image of Indians is being turned around very fast because of the hard dedicated work of your people. That image is becoming more positive than it ever was. The reason it's becoming more positive is because of the kind of controls and the developments that you are taking a grip of and in that light, I would like to see us move to create many, many more opportunities.
The Indian/Dene/Dakota government forum Creates an opportunity to us and people across Canada to discuss fully areas of common concern, as it affects our bands, as it affect our people individually at the local, provincial and the national scene.
We are dealing with the issues, the problems from the point of view of jurisdictional issues. We are dealing with those issues in this way. We are addressing the issues from the point of view of jurisdiction; the federal jurisdiction, the provincial jurisdiction and the Indian/Dene/Dakota jurisdiction and there is a pretty clean statement developing about who is responsible for various areas.
I feel the optimism and the positiveness that has developed. The positive image is there also because we are now beginning to generate a lot of our own wealth. We are taking the long-term steps to accomplish that. That's not saying that we're going to generate our own wealth to the point where we let the government off the hook for their responsibility and clear responsibilities under the treaty.
Politicians both Indian/Non-Indian very often speak about our social rights. Our economic rights, our land rights and our cultural- but always fail to address our political rights.
I want to close by saying that it is the International Year Of The Child and I ask you what more could we give our children that the powers to be able to govern themselves under Indian/Dene/ government as guaranteed by the treaty.
That concludes my address, Ladies, and Gentlemen and I want to thank you for being patient and listening attentively and those are the issues that lay before us in deciding the future of our people.