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Sol Sanderson, acclaimed FSI
Chief; Steven Pooyak
also returned by acclamation as 2nd Vice-President,
and newly-elected Treasurer, Wayne Ahenakew.
Former FSI Executive Director Wayne Ahenakew was also elected by acclamation as treasurer, an office left open by Tony Cote, who did not seek re-election.
Although the speculation, excitement and suspense of the campaign were eliminated this way, this enables the executive to pursue their individual portfolios and collective mandate of protection of the treaties without interruption and with continued confidence as veterans of the political scene, provincial and federal.
Ahenakew provided some entertainment by pledging to fulfil his alleged election promise to the elders of "rebuilding the Queen's Hotel," a familiar structure which was torn down this summer. He pledged every effort to carry out directions given him by the senate and the chiefs. The frustrations suffered by chiefs were acknowledged by both Sanderson and Pooyak, having been chiefs themselves. Both reinforced pledges of their efforts to protect treaty rights.
Sol Sanderson gave the opening address which focused on colonialism, pointing out the threats to treaties and the attempted assimilation of Indians by governments down through history to the present impending patriation of the Canadian constitution and DIAND's Directional Plan for the 1980's, viewed by the Saskatchewan chiefs and the FSI as the recycling of the 1969 White Paper Policy in a slightly altered and more sophisticated form.
Briefly, colonialism is the suppression or maintenance of a foreign culture or country for economic exploitation. History proves the desirable economic activity provided by the Indian people was the fur trade primarily and in later years, land for settlement. To gain the confidence and trust of the Indian people, negotiation for land began with the treaties. European immigrants needed the Indian nations to help conquer the elements of the new land and protect its borders.
Contrary to popular belief, the treaties are not social contracts. Indian people, as owners and occupants of a land, gave up their occupancy for certain rights including annual (symbolic) cash payments, social and economic support services and reserved portions of land for themselves.
Sanderson cautioned against weakness, urging decisive collective action and concentrated effort in effecting the entrenchment of treaty rights in the Canadian constitution, whether patriated or not. He urged preparation of a draft bill to require amendment (to entrench treaty rights) in Britain before patriation or the alternate, although less
"The days of reacting continuously are over; we are now on the offense, thanks to leadership," he added.
He pledged continued hard negotiations for an expanding land base and implementation of treaty rights and the policies for strengthening these rights made under the direction of the chiefs (to further the First Nations' concept of Indian government). "Many people had felt the government had come to their senses (shelving 69 White Paper) and relaxed. Saskatchewan did not. We knew it would resurface and it has . . . in DIAND's Directional Plan for the 1980's. Assimilation is both a policy and a state of mind," Sanderson told the assembly of chiefs.
"The government has never withdrawn the White Paper," he added.
Wayne Ahenakew gave a brief summary of the over-all programs of the FSI. These include Indian Rights and Research, Communications, Health, Indian Justice, the three colleges operating under the umbrella of the FSI, Sports and Recreation and the activities and courses initiated by these programs in the past and plans for the future. There has been a trend of increased control of staff and programming decentralized to chiefs and districts, he said.
Chief Sid Fiddler of Waterhen, addressing the chair from the floor, commented that although you can see the Indian government concept emerging in the increased decentralization of programs to bands, this has resulted in overwhelming responsibilities for chiefs and councils who are already overburdened with local administration, reserve and political problems. "We just don't have the time to deal with all the program areas," he said.
He advocated establishment of more human development programs dealing with spiritual and personal growth to start pulling people together into effective communities at the reserve level. He suggested increased funding for travelling and orientating people on the reserves to the functioning of organization, treaties, and government policies so that they can understand and stand solidly behind their leadership. He added that communication between the national level and reserve level leaves a lot to be desired and much is lost by the time it gets to the reserve level.
Treasurer Tony Cote presented a financial report followed by some discussion from the floor. Lack of funding for district representatives' salaries, failure of funding agencies to release money on time resulting in bank loans, high cost of defending Indian rights in courts, escalating transportation costs not reflected in funding and furnishing and renovating FSI offices were some of the reasons given for the deficit.
Chief Fiddler suggested there should be initiated a practice of financial accountability at the reserve level to ensure equal development of all districts.
Sanderson answered that decentralization of FSI financing will be under district chiefs' administration accounts soon. Mary Rose Yooya inquired about the financial position of Saskatchewan Indian Women's Association and was informed a report would be available the following day.
The Executive gave resolution reports arising from past annual chiefs' meetings.
Chief Sanderson reported that a committee made up of district chiefs, senate members and past presidents will look into the reorganization (of the FSI) geared to partnership agreements to pave the way for a new constitution. With eight months gone in a two year time frame, this restructure of the organization will aim at a governing body of chiefs establishing their own administration accountable directly to bands (financially and operationally).
The Yorkton district has reached a tentative quorum with Sterling Brass, Harry Delorme and Ken Sparvier working with that district. North Battleford has purchased premises to formally set up an administration centre, Sanderson said. Ron Albert has been assigned to meetings in Meadow Lake, Prince Albert, Saskatoon and Fort Qu'Appelle, he added.
The total tax exemption stand of the Federation has resulted in 800 court cases relating to taxation pending, but they have reached a federal agreement prohibiting harassment until the court cases are resolved.
Federal funding for salaries of chiefs and headmen has been negotiated and implementation will commence April/ 1981.
Reports on Indian Government Centres, a Banking System, Indian Education Act, Indian Health and Social Services Task Force, Housing Commission, Resource Revenue Sharing and Indian Sports and Recreational Development policy were given by the executive, stemming from the January; 1980 chief's meeting. Five other resolutions reports arising from the April/ 1980 meeting also dealt with social and economic development. Comprehensive reports were included in the kits.
Dr. Glen Sinclair, DIAND Director of Education, Saskatchewan Region, addressed education with a lot of quotes from Walking Buffalo of the Stonies but heralded a whole new era of future teaching and learning processes designed, directed and implemented by the Indian people.
Visitors from the four bands of Hobbema, Alberta were there to support and possibly discuss blocking constitutional patriation and alternative strategies.
This concluded the first day of the conference.