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Chiefs Policy Conference 1981

Martha Ironstar

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      MARCH 1981      v11 n03 p02  
FSI President Sol Sanderson. Day one of the policy conference held at senate chambers, University of Regina, began with presentation of the proposed structure of the F.S.I. The progression of the F.S.I. during the 1970's is unequalled to any other province. For 1981, the F.S.I. has chosen a new organizational structure which will promote increased strength, both politically and economically. In earlier structures, the F.S.I. seemed to be very centralized. The new structure "will decentralize the organization, paving the way for true Indian Government", stated F.S.I. President Sol Sanderson.

Since the 1970's, Saskatchewan chiefs have taken on increased responsibility for the social, economic, educational and political development of their bands. This has brought the chiefs into an expanding policy development role.

The new structure will be given direction from the chiefs of Saskatchewan's 69 bands. Sol Sanderson stated "the chiefs will be making all of the policies as the executive body governing structure in the F.S.I."

As this has occurred, F.S.I. has moved into a support role rather than providing direct program service.

The new structure is the third since 1947. The centralization of the F.S.I. administration within this new structure is an example of streamlining which will enable the F.S.I. to better provide support as bands move into providing more community based direct service.

The chiefs will receive advisory support from the Saskatchewan Indian Women's Association, the Saskatchewan Indian Veterans' Association, the Saskatchewan Indian Senate, F.S.I. past Presidents, the First Nations Assembly and the Chiefs Council of First Nations.

The new "linear" structure consists of three parts, the executive council, the chief's policy development boards and district, agency and chief's councils. The chiefs policy Development Boards will direct development of Indian Government programs and services in 24 institutions. Sanderson mentioned the new structure will enable the F.S.I. to establish Indian economic institutions. "Saskatchewan is taking lead role at the national level in developing Indian institutions, working to control our resources and expanding our land base".

Saskatchewan is the only region in Canada striving to head off government from setting up separate economic institutions outside our political structure Sanderson said "back in the 70's, we developed a number of educational institutions; we'll now be structuring a number of our own economic institutions". The chiefs adopted a plan to set up The Saskatchewan Indian Equity Foundation to assist in financing Indian business and industry. In this regard, the Federation is concerned that the Indian people have the opportunity to participate as real and meaningful members of the greater economic community.

The Saskatchewan Indian Resource Council (for the development of Indian Economic Policy) is already in place. Sol Sanderson said "the next step will be an Indian Banking System".

There are presently some Indian financial institutions offering a full time of Band and Trust services to clientele. Indian companies, such as Peace Hills Trust Company (Sampson Indian Band), the Makavik Corporation, etc, are generally chartered federally as trust companies.

The F.S.I. is in the forefront in resolving the return of lands and resources to Indian ownership. Indians will begin to move ahead in all areas of resource development. "We have to take away the powers the government assumes they have in the control of Indian Resources and be responsible for the management and development of these resources. In treaty areas, we'll have to negotiate shared jurisdictional powers with federal and provincial governments," Sol said. "Up until now we've been trying to get our hands on these resources while they were being controlled and developed by interest groups:'.

The executive council will provide support services, such as an Indian justice system, to band development boards and treaty area centres. Sanderson stated "There is a vacuum in the provincial justice system on reserves where provincial legislation doesn't apply".

Through the district agency and tribal chiefs councils, treaty area administration centres will provide Indian policy and programming. These centres will ensure policies agreed upon by the chiefs will be carried out according to what is intended by treaty. As Sol Sanderson said, "all our chiefs and bands are governed by treaty conditions, built into the constitution".

The support services offered by the Federation under direction of executive council will be organized under various departments. Only in this way can the F.S.I. truly carry out it's role as the political arm for Indian bands in Saskatchewan. Only in this way can the nationhood of Saskatchewan Indian bands be assured.

The F.S.I. organization is unique from all other native structures in Canada. Sol Sanderson said "people are going to have to formally address Indian Government".