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Over 400 Chiefs and elders, plus representatives of most of Canada's Indian bands, were present when a Saskatchewan Federation of Indians resolution was adopted, forming the concept of an Assembly of First Nations.
The Assembly, which will be made up of 570 band Chiefs from across the country, will be responsible for broad policies on political issues such as constitutional reform, amendment to the Indian Act, and will be the prime organizing body in forming national Indian Government.
Shortly, a provisional council will be elected to take over administration from the National Indian Brotherhood (NIB).
As the first step in the evolution of Indian government for Canada's 300,000 registered Indians, the Assembly would likely give rise to another organization known as a national legislative body, and consisting of representatives from Indian electorial districts.
Such districts would be formed under the jurisdiction of the National Assembly, and the districts, in time, would also be areas of responsibility for managing local Indian Affairs.
With the creation of the Assembly, the gradual phasing out of the NIB is an important step in the formation of a recognized political system.
Founded in 1970, the NIB only developed social, economic, and political policies; it had no mandate to implement the ideas, and it was up to the executive committee members of the NIB to see that policies were followed up and adopted by governments - both Indian and white.
Under the new structure, power will lie in the hands of the Chiefs, who, it is hoped, will become a more effective lobbying force to governments because of their position as elected Indian government officials, and by their numbers.
With the adoption of this preliminary stage of Indian Government, additions to the proposal for Indian Government can easily be made at future Constitutional Conferences, or at a full Assembly of Indian Nations.
The most detailed system of Indian government worked out to date has been the package submitted by the FSI to the conference.
Saskatchewan's proposal, entitled "Indian Nation and Canada, Government Institution and Process", foresees a separate national government for Indians which works as a parallel structure to the federal government.
A proposal by the Alberta Tribal Chiefs to the conference set out their plans for an Indian Government along the lines of an 11th province; but the federal government shot down the Alberta scheme, which leaves the Saskatchewan proposal for Indian Government as the only alternative.
The Ottawa conference was entitled "A Future for Our Children", and looked at a number of issues of immediate concern to the Canadian Indian, and implications current development have on Indian people across Canada.
Of major importance was the relationship between Indians and
A major proposal that the Chiefs requested was that the minister of Indian Affairs put a stop to the current Indian Act revision process, in order to establish a new process for constitutional reform and legislative change which would not abrogate Indian rights.
The Chiefs asked for more input in rewriting the federal constitution - besides the observer status granted by the BNA Act.
The Chiefs also asked that funds for consulting and hearings on the Indian Act be turned over to Indian Government for work towards obtaining full and equal involvement in constitutional renewal.
A total of 41 resolutions were submitted for approval by the Chiefs at the conference. A few of the major resolutions passed by the conference follow:
The Assembly supported the immediate fulfillment of Treaty Land entitlement provisions for Saskatchewan Bands by Canada; A directive should be sent to Indian Affairs asking that funds be made available for the Indian Youth so that they can be recognized at local, provincial, and national levels.
The Chiefs recommended Indian Affairs establish a means by which Indian business ventures can secure bonding for a wide range of activities. Also, that bonding should be a reasonable cost, and easily available when needed.
They asked that the government provide a full account of Indian monies held in trust, and that in-
terest on the money should be paid at the highest rate - that of the chartered banks.
Additional resolutions called for the government to fulfill its obligations in the area of agriculture assistance by providing assistance and funding to enable Bands to realize economic independence; that proper and contemporary nursing and retirement facilities be provided to the elderly; and that Indian veterans receive the same rights, privileges, and services that non-Indians receive under the Veterans Act.
Women's rights were supported by the conference when the Indian Rights for Women group was allocated additional funding for research. It was felt that Treaty Indian women have a special status as 'Citizens Plus', but are not benefiting from research done by
The Chiefs demanded that the government put a halt to the harrassment of Indian people by the RCMP. They called for a new system of justice that would be suitable to, and accepted by, Indians.
Regarding the rights of children, the conference supported the Indian lawyers' call for Indian control over the welfare system. They said too many children are being taken away from Indians and placed in non-Indian homes by provincial placement authorities.
The loss of Indian children threatens the fundamental framework of Indian culture, and the survival of the Indian people.
Other resolutions passed by Chiefs included: a call for the government to amend the Fisheries Act, and the Provincial Fishery Regulations, to fall in line with treaty and aboriginal rights to fish freely; support of the Dene Nation and their position against the Norman Wells Pipeline; the development of a national Indian Media body; immediate settlement of land claims for those who were never provided land; immediate settlement of all land claims; the setting aside of a section of Jasper Park for Chief Robert Smallboy and his people; to develop new technology for a natural Indian way of life; the provision of funding in order to develop better educational programs; support of the National Indian Sports Council as the govern-
STURGEON LAKE GROUP PERFORMED FOR CONFERENCE
The Sturgeon Singers Drummers lead by Henry Felix (right) performed during the arrival of runners carrying a Sacred Pouch from Alberta to the conference in Ottawa.
GETTING A HEAD IN THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICE
Chief John Snow of Morley, Alberta thanked Prime Minister Trudeau for speaking at the First Nation's Conference by presenting the nation's leader with a mounted bison head.
ing sports body for Indians; and, to hold a similar conference on the constitution in one year. The only major resolution tabled was one to adopt a National Flag of a Sovereign Indian Nation. The motion was tabled until further work on the proposal for Indian Government has been worked out and adopted.
In the top photograph the Prime Minister receives a parfleche bundle from Head Chief Jim Shot Both Sides of the Blood Tribe in Standoff, Alberta. The Sacred Pouch was carried to the conference by 12 Indian runners who completed a gruelling 25-day, kilometre run from the Alberta reserve to Ottawa.
The Pouch contains treaty records and documents of importance to the Indians, and was presented to the P.M. to remind him of the commitments made by the crown for Indians, but not honored by governments.
In the second photograph, Chief Rod King of the Lucky Man reserve meets the Prime Minister during the conference.