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Following meetings with all the major media in the province to solicit their assistance in publishing or airing information on this issue, the Federation's Treaty Rights and Research program then took Danny Musqua on staff, (to act as a speaker at functions of interested groups throughout, the province). To date, four such meetings have been held and more are planned.
Danny is well-versed on the Treaty Land Entitlement issue, having worked with the Keeseekoose Band, where he is a councillor, for five years on that Band's land entitlement. It is his mandate to outline to these groups the Indians' position on entitlement, what it means in terms of social and economic development, job opportunity, and hope for the future.
The first of these meetings was with the Regina Lions' Club. Here, the theme of Danny's address centred around the agricultural scene, which is the economic mainstay of most of the reserves in the southern two-thirds of the province; the type of land sought by the Bands; and the density of population as compared with the cultivated acreage's. One example given was that the arable acreage (on Keeseekoose) is enough to support and employ only
about seven families. The result is high unemployment, frustration, and despair. Fulfillment of entitlement to Bands would yield increased self-sufficiency, more employment, a viable economic base, and an increased sense of pride.
On November 22nd, a similar meeting was held at Lashburn (near the Alberta border), involving a meeting of the United Church Presbytery. Some 40-people, representing the 15-pastoral charges in the Battleford area attended the meeting. The provincial land entitlement co-ordinator, Rob Milen, from Regina, was also in attendance. Mr. Milen touched on the reasons for unemployment, poverty, welfare, and lack of education on reserves, and mentioned a number of facts concerning voting by Indian people, living conditions on reserves, economic difficulties, and the dislike for 'the welfare syndrome'. He suggested that while it might be the non-Indian's opinion that lack of land is the least of the Indian' peoples problems, that it was a debt which must be paid; it has been owing for too long, and it would signal the beginning of the Indian peoples' being able to finally help themselves with other problems. Milen said what the Indian people are saying to the non-Indian community in Saskatchewan, and to governments, is "help us to help ourselves".
In his address to the Presbytery, Danny Musqua said there was no welfare 20, or 25 years ago that it wasn't needed. He spoke of the Christianity conversion program, and the lack of education. He said where he went to school; there was very little space for Indian students after grade. 8, so the students would sit through another year of the same grade, because there was nothing else for them to do.
Danny told the gathering that there is a crying need for communication between Indians and non-Indians. He said it took him five years living in (European) society before he was able to express himself effectively.
He also said that those people who are in a position to help are often very difficult to reach. He said the Indian people want to be equal-not in the sense of being like the non-Indians, but in being able to pursue, without interference, the In than way of life; culture, religion, and values.
Later that evening, a public meeting was held in Paynton, a small town in the Little Pine-Poundmaker area. The meeting dealt primarily with land selections in those areas. Non-Indians at the meeting were concerned with the conditions for transfer of land to Reserve status, and with selection of a portion of the Paynton pasture by Little Pine as part of that reserve's land entitlement.
They also said that the land wasn't all that good, and wanted to know why the Band wouldn't select land of better quality. They suggested pastureland wasn't very viable economically, and asked if the Band had given consideration to selection of land bank land, or CPR and Hudson Bay land.
No one we spoke with suggested land wasn't owed the 15-validated entitlement Bands in the province, but were concerned with how third party interests might be handled or compensated for.
The mood of the gathering at the outset of the meeting was one of apprehension and confusion. Following the meeting, there were indications that some understanding of the situation had been gained.
On November 29th, a public forum was held in Eatonia, southeast of Kindersley. The community is in the heart of an area served by the Newcombe Pasture, and there was a turnout of more than 300 people at the meeting. Doug Cuthand, 1st Vice President of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians, addressed the gathering as the Executive Member in charge of land, entitlement; Rob Milen was again present, to outline the province's stand on entitlement, and Al Gross, from regional office of Indian Affairs in Regina spoke on behalf of the Federal position.
The meeting was set up in a two panel format, with Cuthand, Milen, Gross, and the moderator on one side, and the representative from the RM of Glidden, Don Madden; a representative from, the Prairie Farm. Rehabilitation Act Pasture, Dr. Bob Lodge; Doug Martindale, a local minister; and a patron, Randy Arthur.
The meeting was held under the auspices of the Prairie West Community College, and the moderator gave a comprehensive outline as to the purpose of the meeting, and why land entitlement existed. He said the patrons and, interested persons attending the meeting had one of three choices: to welcome the land selection and the people it would bring; to reluctantly accept it; or to have strong organized opposition to the possibility of land entitlement settlements in the area. He also said the Indians have more experience in living with-non-Indians, than the non-Indians have living with the Indians. He also suggested at the outset of the meeting that in a stable community, the tendency is, to resist change, particularly when the change isn't through the community members-He summed it up by saying "we (non-Indians) generally oppose what is imposed."
Rob Milen outlined the province's position in a fashion similar to four previous meetings. He also told the crowd that Premier Allan Blakeney was approached August 28th, 1975, by then Minister in, charge of the Department of Indian Affairs Judd Buchanan. At that meeting, Buchanan suggested negotiations be in between the province of Saskatchewan, the Indian people of the province, and the Federal Government, to settle land entitlement here. The formula agreed to as a result of more than a year, of constant and heavy negotiations would allot land to Indian, people in an amount equal to 128-acres per person, or, one square mile per family of five, basis the Entitlement Bands population, effective December 31st 1976.
AI Gross told the meeting that the province's entitlement and looked across the province, and selected land they felt they would need to settle their land entitlement. To date, he said, only one small parcel of land had been transferred since the agreement on the formula was reached in 1977. He also said that there has been no direction from the Minister (Jake Epp). The Minister, said Gross, is waiting for his direction from Cabinet.
Doug Cuthand said Indian people comprise seven per cent of the total population of Saskatchewan, and even if land entitlement) goes through in its entirety, the Indian people would still have only about one percent of the land area of the province. He also stressed the im-
But he also pointed out that somewhere down the road, land would be used for the benefit of the Indian people exclusively. In a question and answer session, which followed the meeting, it was suggested by one of the non-Indians that the pasture be sold, leased, or otherwise disposed of. It was also learned that the Saskatchewan Institute of Pedology is to do tests on soil capabilities on the pasture land itself.
There is some concern that land entitlement claims were in process long before the meeting and people of the area are worried about equitable tax burden on schools and hospitals. The meeting was also told that RM Council is not prepared to do anything further that nothing is planned.
A representative for the pasture patrons on the panel, Randy Arthur, said the 1st notice they had of the pasture's selection was in the letter from the PFRA. He also told the gathering that the patrons were extremely concerned about the selection, and those concerns were outlined in letters to, among others, Bob Andrew of the Saskatchewan Stockgrowers Association, and Bill McKnight of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association. Two petitions were drawn up, circulated, and signed, and then sent to Ottawa. He said the claim by Nikaneet to part of the pasture was done without the pasture patrons being informed. He then said that contact was made with the Federal government, and with Treaty Land Entitlement, with no satisfaction forthcoming. The patrons have requested the pasture be operated and maintained, as has been the case in the past.
The meeting was judged to have been most informative. All the comments heard were either noncommittal or positive, but not abrasive or belligerent. The general feeling of those attending was that it was worth attending, if only, on an informational level. Again, no, one is denying the right of the Indian people to land under the entitlement due more than 100-years ago.