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Qu'Appelle Valley Chiefs Impress Ministers On Parliament Hill

Danny Keshane

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 1979      v09 n11-12 p12  
Delegation Against backdrop of Parliament Hill.
Delegation Against backdrop of Parliament Hill.

The eight chiefs representing the Qu'Appelle Valley Development Authority recently took their grievances to various ministers of our present government. The Authority, which represents approximately 6000 Indian people and 176,000 acres of land, has concerns about the economics and environmental changes which development in the region would incur. The governmental agreement controlling that development evolved with absolutely no Indian participation or consultation, despite the fact that approximately 70 miles of the Qu'Appelle Valley is Indian land -prime land for development as recreation and resort areas.

The federal and provincial argument approves a budget of $44,000,000 for development in the Valley.

Up to this point, no comprehensive study has been implemented regarding impact of the water conveyance system. Because Indian lands are needed for completion of the system development has come to a halt. Indian people have been threatened with expropriation if they refuse to comply with demands for their lands. Indian endorsement of the project depends of course; on what insight and information an impact study would yield.

The conveyance system is a series of dams and other diversions such as straightening out the riverbeds and deepening and widening the river channels for more effective moving of water. Annual spring flooding and controlling water levels in upper lakes are also points for consideration. Since the dams have been constructed, about 5,000 acres of Indian lands have suffered permanent or semi-permanent flooding.

Under the leadership, of Roland Crowe, Chief of the Piapot Band, Indian opinion is reflected by the Qu'Appelle Valley Indian Development Authority. Bands represented include Piapot, Pasqua, Muscowpetung, Standing Buffalo, Sakimay, Cowesses, Kahkewistahaw and Ochapowace.

The delegation representing this Authority with FSI endorsement travelled to Ottawa to discuss the project with various government officials. Chief Solomon Sanderson of the FSI, Irvin Goodleaf and Noel Starblanket representing the NIB were present when the group met with the Honorable Jake Epp, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. Ron Rosebluff, Chief of the Muscowpetung Band, presented the major concerns of the group to government representatives.

Alvin Hamilton, MLA for Qu'Appelle-Wolsely constituency and Frank Oberly, chairman of the Standing Committee invited the delegation to attend the next Standing Committee meeting, a first ever for Indians! Fr. Bole Holmes, Parliamentary-Secretary for Indian affairs, Warren Allmand and Charles Caccio expressed surprise at the exclusion of Indian involvement in the Agreement, as did the NDP Caucus under the leadership of Simon deJong. The delegation was unhappy that Gordon McKane, minister  of DREE, chose to concede to the wishes of Saskatchewan civil servants and not grant the Authority an audience.  In this absence, however, the  ADM John McNaughton received Authority representatives and was reportedly most impressed with the organization and diplomacy of the delegates.

Major points of contention pointed out by Ron Rosebluff, and Lindsay Cyr, on behalf of the Qu'Appelle Valley Development Authority are as follows:

Qu'Appelle Valley Chiefs Impress Ministers On Parliament Hill

Danny Keshane

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      NOVEMBER 1979      v09 n11&12 p13  

In summation, Chief Rosebluff stated that if Indian people are going to progress, they must retain control of what happens to their lands. Acting Chief Cyr amended  "we have to plan for ourselves; any other way is meaningless. If we are to succeed, we have to establish our own priorities. In order to make realistic decisions; we must above all have at our disposal the resources to determine our direction. We need money to do our own homework, just like the Qu'Appelle Valley Agreement gave to the white people living in the valley."

Henry Delorme representing the Cowesses Band, pointed out how short-term funding received now would greatly alleviate problems faced, by the Authority the impact studies (including examination of past damages) could be, accomplished economic resources of the eight bands represented in the Authority could be surveyed; short-terms funding would allow the Authority to remain in operation during this crucial planning stage.  

The group also met with the honorable John Fraser, Minister of the Environment, who committed his complete support to Authority members. Apparently, Mr. Fraser a man of his word; a short time after the meeting ended, the Authority learned that short-term, funding became available to ensure continued operation of the Qu'Appelle Valley Indian Development Authority (designated for consultation, technical support services and a study of past damages).

The delegation is to be commended for the organization of its approach. Objectives and goals were set only after thorough debate and examination of aspirations of the QVIDA; the delegates carried out a diplomatic, systematic approach to achieving these goals. All ensuing briefs and presentations to both federal and provincial governments were thoroughly prepared and well deserving of the praise and credibility awarded the Authority by governmental officials. -Danny Keshane