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Nation Status Urged For Indians

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      OCTOBER 1979      v09 n10 p06  
Indian people should not accept anything less than the status and powers of a nation such as they held when treaties were signed more than 100 years ago, Sol Sanderson, acting president of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians (FSI), said Monday.

Speaking at the opening of the 21st annual meeting of the FSI in Saskatoon, Sanderson said Indians must assert their status as a nation in discussions about patriating the Canadian constitution.

Prime Minister Clark refuses to allow Indians to join constitutional talks on the same basis as any of the 11 governments because he considers them a "race," not a nationality, Sanderson said.

But "Indian" describes a nationality just as "Canadian," with subdivisions such as Cree or Ojibway corresponding to various ethnic backgrounds in Canadian society.

Sanderson said there must be full recognition of Indian and Dene treaty and aboriginal rights. He rejected Clark's offer to negotiate Indian political rights, saying they were not open for negotiation.

Any new Canadian constitution must entrench treaty rights and they must be ratified by Parliament. "Our children can afford nothing less," he said.

Indian people want more than status of local governments responsible for taking over federal responsibilities. They want Indian legislation giving their chiefs and councils the powers of self-determination they enjoyed when the treaties were signed, Sanderson said.

He also called for changes in federal and provincial laws which infringe on Indian treaty rights in such areas as child welfare or hunting and fishing.

Sanderson said governments are playing down the significance of the treaties and are defining their responsibilities by the Indian Act. But the treaties are agreements between nations, not mere "social contracts" as Ottawa and the provinces would like to view them in implementing the act, he said.

He said Indians were afraid to talk about exercising their right to self-government until about a year ago - partly due to fears about the concept planted by the federal Indian affairs department and provincial governments.

Today the term is widely used. Indian governing centres in bands, cities and districts are being considered, Sanderson said. The jurisdiction of chiefs should not be restricted to reserve boundaries (as the Indian Act dictates) but should extend over the areas covered by the treaties.

He called on Ottawa to deliver treaty-guaranteed funding under one department so that Indians do not have to bear the cost of many bureaucracies.

And he urged the FSI to develop a policy for Indian political administration, including such concepts as an Indian constitution and banking system, extended jurisdiction beyond reserves and economic strategies to lessen native dependence on government.

Sanderson warned the chiefs and delegates from Saskatchewan's 68 bands that some Indian people oppose Indian-Dene government or economic development and said they are playing into the hands of Ottawa and the provinces.

Alderman Helen Hughes
Alderman Helen Hughes welcomes delegates to Saskatoon on behalf of Mayor Cliff Wright.
Cliff Starr presents plaque to Staff Sergeant Ken Jamont
Cliff Starr of the F.S.I. presents plaque to Staff Sergeant Ken Jamont who is leaving the Special Indian Constable Program.