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The FSI and chiefs will be meeting with John Munro, federal Indian Affairs Minister, in Saskatoon on Friday June 27, to discuss land entitlements, economic development, and funding, for the three Indian colleges in the province.
Environment Minister Ted Bowerman, and Agriculture Minister Gordon MacMurchy, have also been invited to attend the meeting.
The chiefs met in Saskatoon to plan their strategy and to iron out details of the land entitlement proposals that each of them will be presenting to the minister.
Rob Milen, provincial coordinator of treaty land entitlement, resigned from his position effective May 1, due to stagnation in the proceedings. This meeting with the minister was set up by the FSI to rekindle and accelerate the negotiating process, which has been bogged down by several elections and cabinet changes in the federal government.
There will be at least seven recommendations to the minister; to abolish the Office of Native Claims because of their restrictive attitude to outstanding land entitlements; obtain concrete action to move selected crown lands to reserve status, including residential schools; on-going funding for land selection and validation; a clear and on-going validation mechanism; and immediate meetings with the federal and provincial ministers responsible.
The land entitlements are unfulfilled treaty obligations and not land claims. Validated entitlements are situations where the proposals have been thoroughly researched, submitted to, and validated through, the Department of Indian Affairs. These proposals are then forwarded to the federal department.
Unvalidated claims are situations where there is a case of unfulfilled treaty obligations but the reserve is still in the process of submitting a proposal.
There are 15 validated land entitlements and 18 unvalidated ones at the present time.
On June 3, Vice-President Doug Cuthand urged the chiefs to make their own presentations to the minister. He said the primary role of the FSI should be to introduce the chiefs to Munro for them to present their case, as the government had already heard the legal aspects of this issue.
He suggested that the chiefs tell it the way it was from the reserve level, explain the numerous difficulties experienced by the bands in settling their obligations, and land entitlements.
"The chiefs should be out front, negotiating with the minister all along," Standing said on the second day of the meeting.
He believes a chief will have to be prepared to devote a lot of time to the land issue if he wants to get anywhere. The politicians will listen to the chiefs as they represent the power on the reserve, and this power represents votes he says.
At the signing of the treaties, each band member was to have received 128 acres of land. Lower head counts due to seasonal migration of the people, more people moving in after the head count, lack of knowledge of new federal employees, the underhanded persuasion and coercion of Indian agents to make Indians surrender lands and reneged or undermined promises of quarter sections of land to World War I veterans, are some of the reasons for outstanding land entitlements.
The FSI reached an agreement in 1977 with the Saskatchewan government which validated 15 outstanding entitlements which based the band population on the December 31, 1976 census of the bands involved.
The Land Entitlement Committee has $75,000 at its disposal to enable it to continue operations.