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Although not required to do so under Treaty, many Saskatchewan Indians served in the Canadian armed forces during the Second World War , as well as in other conflicts. Some were killed in battle, leaving widows and children. Service in the armed force was a contributor to the break-up of the families left at home.
On returning from their service, the Indian veterans expected that they would be treated in the same way as any other veteran who had served his country by putting his life on the line.
The Indian veterans expected that they would be set up in business, agriculture and other occupations. Those who returned with disabilities caused by the wars anticipated adequate disability pensions, retraining and provisions for their families.
Returning Indian veterans believed that, through their participation in the armed struggles on Canada's behalf, they would be strengthening the Indian nations' movement towards self-determination and ensuring that the Treaties would gain respect.
What, in fact, the veterans faced was their being used to advance existing Federal Government policies to assimilate Indian people into the Canadian society, through the termination of their rights. Policies applied to them were designed to undermine the protected status to sovereign band lands; to subvert the reserved powers of the Chiefs and Councils; to diminish the significant of individual Indian treaty status; and to discriminate against Indian veterans in comparison with their non-Indian comrades.
These objectives were sought through Federal laws, regulations proclaimed under them and through the way these were administered by government bureaucrats in the Department of Indian Affairs and other departments.
Non-Indian veterans had the opportunity of acquiring grants of Crown land, as well as private lands through long-term assisted purchase. Two Federal Acts (Soldier Settlement and Veterans Lands) and the ways they were implemented allowed these policies to be pursued to give these veterans the opportunity to enter the workforce as respected and productive members of Canadian society.
This was not the case as far as Indian veterans were concerned. Federal policies, laws and systems of administration worked contrary to their interests as Treaty and status Indians.
The Indian Reserves have been considered to be Federal Crown land, set aside for the use of Indian people (Indian Act). Federal Crown lands are to be used and disposed of at the discretion of the Federal Government. In their policies towards veterans, the Federal Government equated Indian reserve land with Crown lands in general, in denial of its special status under Treaty. Indian veterans gained access to lands they already had as band members (the reserves), and did not receive grants of off-reserve Crown or other land.
The Department of Indian Affairs was used to impose Federal policies on Chiefs and Councils. They were forced to allocate reserve lands to returning veterans. This was done by soliciting a resolution from the Band Council to allocate an Indian veteran on an identifiable piece of land on the reserve. There the veteran was to be settled. Once this had taken place, the veteran and his land became the direct responsibility of the Indian Agent, to the exclusion of Chief and Council.
Present History: (70's)
The Association was formed in the late seventies and in 1980 it really began to move. After many meetings and discussions of the organization were put in place. The constitution was finalized and a structure was drafted and approved.
The total provincial organization is broken down into three areas: the Southern Branch, Prince Albert Branch and the North Battleford Branch. Each branch has its own Executive, consisting of a President, First Vice-President and a Second Vice-President. Presidents if each branch, with the President of the organization and the Past Provincial President, make up the Executive for the provincial body. The Presidents, First Vice-Presidents and Second Vice-Presidents of each branch make up the Board of Directors of the provincial body. There are 11 members of the Board of Directors, and five make up the provincial Executive.
The Executive meet once a month and the Board of Directors meet every three months. Since November, 1980, the organization has taken on a paid staff of three people, who are veterans, but because of insufficient funds, the work has been very limited. It is estimated that approximately ten percent of its work has been done but not completed.
It started up by studying the report by Tyler & Wright, which was done in Ottawa on the files in the archives of Indian Veterans, and from this there was documentation done. The two main departments of the federal government were invited to participate, the Department of Indian Affairs Lands and Trusts and the Department of Veterans Affairs, pensions and other related benefits.
Field trips were then undertaken to interview veterans on monetary grants on the Veterans Land Act, Further to this, pensions were discussed on what was received and what should have been received. To this date, we have approximately 140 cases documented. We are unable to do a follow-up because the funds are depleting drasically.
We requested from each veteran or widow, authorization to look at file held at the district offices of Indian Affairs or in any office which hold records of them, to find out if what they say the records state are corresponding. It's sad to say, but so far the records we've checked do not correspond. Each tell a different story, and because of lack of funds we are unable to follow-up to remedy the situation.
The Veteran was then compelled to follow a prescribed path, under the Agent's direction, if he was to obtain a certificate of possession to his allotment. In this way, the abilities of the Chief and Council to direct the development of the reserve are side-tracked.
Because of the negative character of local DIA administration, events did not proceed in this smooth fashion. Many statements by band members point to a system under which policies were distorted and misdirected, so that they worked against the individual and collective Indian interest. This is in complete contrast to the ways non-Indian veterans were compensated for their sacrifices.