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Proposed Trappers Organization Will Protect Treaty Interests

When Indian, Metis and non Native trappers formed the Saskatchewan Trappers Association (STA) a dozen years ago, the purpose was to have the trappers control and manage their fishing and trapping resources. It was a good idea at the time, and it is still the desired objective. But concerns over how the association has been run has caused a split among the general membership, says Chief Paul Sylvestre.

"Metis and Indians", says Chief Sylvestre, "both supported the STA in the beginning. It was a good idea having the trapper with a zone and being required to manage it properly in the interests of conservation.

"But", he adds, "the Metis and Indians began to notice problems within the association, such as conflicts of interest at the directors' level". He says the directors were chosen by the general membership at first, but when the board became stronger, it began to select the directors from among a certain power group, and open elections were blocked. He says this was allowed to happen because the association's constitution was not properly written.

The Indian, Metis and non Native elements of the association then began to split apart, Chief Sylvestre says. And a year ago, a new organization started in La Ronge, called the Northern Fur Conservation Area Trappers Association Inc.

A meeting of the northwest Saskatchewan members of that association in Buffalo Narrows in late October, resulted in the creation of the North West Regional Fur Council. Chief Sylvestre was elected as the Council's chairman, with Lawrence Yew as vice-chairman, and Norman Bonneau as secretary.

Chief Sylvestre says the concerns of the new group include the closure on linx, road corridor closure, the Wildlife Habitat Certificate fee, the cuts in the freight subsidies on fish, the closure of certain lakes, and the imposition of limits on certain fish species. "It was hoped", says Chief Sylvestre, "that Cohn Maxwell (the Minister of Parks and Renewable Resources) would have attended the meeting in Buffalo Narrows, or the meeting held the next day. He didn't. But a government biologist did attend the

Proposed Trappers Organization Will Protect Treaty Interests

first meeting. However", says Chief Sylvestre, "none of the issues were resolved."

Then, treaty Indians held a separate meeting in Meadow Lake which was attended by all agencies close to the Meadow Lake area. The same day, other treaty trappers were holding a meeting in North Battleford, discussing much the same concerns, and they offered their support to those attending the Meadow Lake meeting.

"If the concerns are the same between the Treaty Indian groups", asks Chief Sylvestre, "what could be the next step? What jurisdictional lines could the treaty Indians use? The Meadow Lake Tribal Council? The Conservation Areas, or the treaty areas? (Which all overlap to a degree)."

Chief Sylvestre then went to a meeting in Prince Albert and found that commercial fishermen there also had similar concerns. So at the All Chiefs Conference in Regina in late November, Chief Sylvestre asked for guidance on what jurisdictional line would be appropriate. He was advised to, and is now using the treaty areas lines.

He says he would like to see all treaty Indians in the province involved in the endeavour. He would like to see one representative in his group from the northwest, one from the northeast, and three from the south of the province, for a total of five members (two Senators and three members at large) with the central office located in Meadow Lake.

The group will prepare a draft policy, in cooperation with a consultant, based on treaty rights. Once the draft policy has been prepared, possibly by next March, it would be sent to all Indian Bands in the province for their input. Once their ideas have been received back, the draft policy would be altered as necessary, and then submitted to the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations for their and adoption as an Act. It would then be sent to Ottawa for ministerial approval, and subsequently published in the Saskatchewan Gazette.

Chief Sylvestre hopes that the Metis would not feel left out of this process. He says the Metis will be consulted as the process continues so that both the treaty Indians and the Metis are knowledgeable of each other's activities and goals.