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First of all, I had seen that we had lost control of our economics and governing systems. If we are going to do anything about our severe conditions, serious alcohol problems, dropout rate, and suicide rates on reserves, the health and unemployment, we must assume responsibility for our own Indian Governments, Education, Spiritual and Cultural developments. You see similar circumstances in other parts of the world where people have lost control and right to exercise their responsibilities. I think that the evidence is seen in the field of education. We have had less dropouts since we have taken control. In Saskatchewan, we have had more graduates on a percentage basis from Grade 12 in the last three years than the total from across Canada. We have just under 5,000 people employed in the field of education.
Q. What are the main issues facing the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations?
There are two issues. First, we must deal with the Treaties and ratify them ourselves as Indian people. This was not done after the signing of the Treaties. The mechanisms and laws were not there as we know them today. We must put laws into place to enforce our Treaties. We are going to, at the same time pursue the changes in Federal and Provincial statutes so that their laws reflect a more positive support of our Treaties and their responsibilities. Along with that is, of course, the strengthening of the Treaties. There are those who argue that Indian Government takes away from the Treaties. But if you are aware, "Treaties don't make Nations; Nations make Treaties". To have nations in place you must have governing systems. The second main issue facing Indian people is the implementation of Indian Government. These are the two main issues, the rest will fall into place.
Q. How can the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations assist Bands in the implementation of Indian Government?
The stage is set now in our development process as we have discussed Indian Government. The next phase is the implementation of Indian Government. The Bands must make the decision to implement Indian Government at their level. We can assist in preparing the surveys and handbooks for Indian Government. We can assist in the how to process, but the political decision must be made by the Bands. The Band members must make a conscious decision to move to Indian Control of Indian Government and that has not been done yet.
Q. How do you see the Great Plains Treaty Council assisting in the implementation of our Treaties?
Within the Assembly of First Nations, it is difficult nationally to get the Treaties addressed. So we are hoping to organize the Bands who have Treaties and to focus on the implementation and enforcement of these Treaty Rights.
Q. How will Indian self government be financed?
Under Treaties there is provision there for fiscal arrangements provided by the Federal Government, for cost of services for education, social services and health. Along with that there is provisions for resource and revenue sharing with the provincial government. Fiscal responsibilities will have to be worked out. As it is now the provincial government is benefiting from the resource developments. Bands are entitled to those resource developments and benefits and should get returns from their resources.
Q. What role do the programs and institutions of F. S. I. N. have for assisting the Bands to implement Indian Government?
The planning and development for the Center of Indian Government is underway and they will eventually assist Bands in developing curriculum and sample institutions. They will organize resources to help Bands to implement Indian Government. This is under the Direction of the Indian Government Commission. The Indian Justice Commission is currently developing strategy for laws that have to be prepared by Indian Governments and non-Indian Governments. We will have to have an Institute of Indian Public Administration to train Indian people for skills in Indian Public Administration. They will also develop policy for Indian Government. Since the FSIN is now under the Convention of April 1982, the roles of the programs and institutions are clearly defined. We within the FSIN are obligated to assist political developments and at the same time, respecting their paramountcy and political autonomy as Bands and Indian Government. The planning and developments of the programs and institutions must reflect the political developments of the First Nations of Saskatchewan.
Q. Did you feel a sense of accomplishment, as one of the chief architects and spokespersons during the First Ministers Conference on Aboriginal Affairs in 1983, when the Constitutional Accord between Canada and the First Nations was signed?
Yes, it was the first time that the Canadian Constitution gave legal recognition to the Treaties. It was the first time we saw Canada ratifying the Treaties legally. It is one of the documents that has supremacy over all law; when I say all law, I don't mean only non-Indian law. The Governments must address Aboriginal Rights and Treaties not only legally, but morally and politically.
Q. Why was there movement under your executive administration towards the signing of the F.S.I.N. Convention by Bands in the spring of 1982?
We are moving towards recognition of Governments to our First Nations status, provincially and nationally. This is the first step towards our obligations under Treaty. The Chiefs were looking to greater control of operation and developments under F.S.I.N. The way the old system was, since 1957, the Chiefs were incorporated under the Societies Act. The basic power lay in the hands of the Executive in the old Constitution. By the Convention, we are taking authority from the Treaties and the political autonomy of each Band.
Convention of April, 1982
The instrument chosen for reorganizing the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians was a Convention, which is a political agreement between Nations. The major changes to structure and reorganization into the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations were the following:
There is a common understanding between the member Bands outlined in a set of operational political principles upon which the Convention is based. The set of political principles include the four main objectives of the old F.S.I.
The rights and duties of the Band as a member of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations is in the Convention, and the political autonomy and paramountcy of the Bands is a key feature of the new reorganization.
Decentralization of the power, authority and services, programs away from the Provincial level back to the Band and District level. The District Chiefs Councils and Convention's are recognized and written into the Convention at the Provincial level.
Accountability to the member Bands is another important feature of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations Convention. The Convention provides for much more internal accountability. The Financial Management Act and Personnel Management Act are in place to help the management and accounting procedures of FSIN. In this way we are now politically accountable to the Chiefs and not only to other external authorities.
The powers, authorities, functions, and structures within the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations from now on will all be decided by the member Bands at the Legislative Assembly.
In order to implement the terms of the Convention of April, 1982, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations Legislative Assembly will need to enact the First Nations Act. The new Convention and structure of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations is designed to keep pace with the political developments of the First Nations, presently and into the future.
The history, traditions and alliances within the Iron Nation and the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians is reflected in the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations.
Q. The 1976 Saskatchewan Formula on land entitlement was quite a historic event for the First Nations of Saskatchewan as it recognized Treaty Land entitlements and return of lands to Bands. Would you elaborate on that?
The Saskatchewan Formula provided for validation of all Bands that had land entitlement. There are two tasks on hand. The Federal Government must transfer and survey lands. They must also provide capital to purchase land for settlement of outstanding entitlements. There has been much stalling by the Province, many excuses by the governments including elections. But they are running out of excuses fast! In a short while they won't be able to blame the Federal Government. The other task at hand deals with land claims, like the agreement in principle signed with the Whitebear Band which is an important precedent. The Indian Affairs Department has admitted to fraud, but the government is overruling the justice Department politically. The precedent established by the Whitebear agreement is we now have two pieces of land that were formerly reserve land set aside to be returned. Along with that we have two new Bands. There are an additional 416,000 acres in Saskatchewan to be settled. The new government will have to honor the agreement, unless they want to go back and start the process all over again. One of the major concerns I have is the policy on the table by the Provincial Government proposing Bands to take cash in lieu of land. There was an understanding that we would not negotiate the sovereignty of title to land. Under Treaty, it is a sacred trust obligation to be held secure for future generations. The proposal for cash in lieu of land also changes the status of land. We were told we could trade land for economic reasons or get cash in lieu of lands to purchase land. Under Treaty, the government set aside reserved lands;
Q. What is the economic strategy for the Indian Governments of Saskatchewan, and how does that assist in the implementation of Indian Government?
We will have to continue to develop an Indian Economic Policy for the Indian people of Saskatchewan. We must put the institutions into place to implement the policy and development of Economics of Indian Nations. The Economic policies that are in place with the Federal and Provincial Governments are definitely not designed for enhancement or development of Indian people. We have to reorganize fiscal arrangements to put into place our economic institutions. We have to negotiate major economic fiscal agreements. We must generally focus on band development to build in all economic sectorial developments. We must get control of our economy and resource development. We must also put into place our own financial institutions. I'm not talking about spin offs from social developments. The economic strategy for Indian Governments of Saskatchewan then is Indian Control of Indian Economics.
Q. What are the plans and directions for the F. S. I. N. in the next decade?
In the next ten years we must assist the Bands in implementing Indian Government. We must look at the training of the staff needed to implement Indian Government. We need to look at political financing. We see the non-Indians being funded for political development on three levels of government. We cannot get funding for Chiefs' salaries for one system of government. We are now striving to get funding for executive members who are political officers to carry out business of Chiefs. We also need the Clerk of the Council to carry out political decisions of the Chief and executive. The political staff is needed to carry on affairs of Indian Government.
We must also stress economic development. We need to develop specialists in the field of economic activities and opportunities for Bands.
In the area of Treaties, it's time we established a Treaty Unit with a Director of Treaties to ensure uniform interpretation of the Treaties. We need to develop a land use policy and a land use management policy. There's also the big question of membership. We need to come up with a citizenship policy or laws. We need a continued push in social development. We have to make political decisions like in the field of education a few years ago. We said, "who's going to do this? Where are we going to get the money? Who is going to be responsible for this and that?" A few years ago when Dr. Glen Sinclair was Regional Director of Education our budget went from 56 to 85 million in Indian Education. We are now improving our quality of education. We must make those similar political decisions in Indian Government, Economic and Social and Political Developments.
Our next task is to organize all our resources to get the Bands to buy major agreements in these categories so the Bands can get on with their development without having to account to several different agencies for money. That's enough work for one decade!
We have to keep building our institutions! Another area that people are concerned about is party politics. Our people and non-Indian people need to recognize that we need the party politics to move ahead on some areas. We must also remember we have dual citizenship status under the Treaties, as a member of a First Nation and as a citizen of Canada, getting involved in party politics is exercising that dual citizenship status. Because we are in transition, we need party politics at this stage of development. We must keep in mind that our issues cross all party lines. No matter what party is in power, they have to treat the Treaties the same way. They have to honour the Treaties; they have to recognize that they have legally binding capital agreements. In party politics, we'll have to come to that hard decision whether we'll participate or not, that will be done by Band. We must look to what's best for our internal development. I can see down the road that sooner or later Indians will not participate in the non-Indian form of government because we will have our own systems.