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Chiefs Demand Progress On Land Entitlement Talks

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      SUMMER EDITION 1991      v20 n03 p07  
July 24, 1991, Saskatoon, SK

There are 27 out of 72 First Nations in Saskatchewan representing 30,000 Treaty Indians, who have legally valid outstanding Treaty Land Entitlements to 1.5 million acres of land, which comprises about 1.5 % of the land base in Saskatchewan.

The FSIN and its Assembly of Entitlement Chiefs are concerned over the marginal progress being demonstrated at the negotiation of a Framework Agreement in Principle which began last January. Securing of this agreement is viewed as a necessary step towards the settlement of 27 individual Treaty Land Entitlement settlements with the Federal government.

The Chiefs assembled are demanding concrete and significant progress from the Federal and Provincial governments who are party to the negotiations. And they have given the governments until August 31, 1991 to arrive at a proposed agreement to be tabled with the Chiefs. Otherwise, the Chiefs will have no choice but to examine its alternatives.

Negotiations are stalled in four key areas. Transfer of mineral and water resources and roads which are a part of the lands purchased by Bands are three critical areas the chiefs are concerned about.

However, the issue which concerns the Chiefs the most is clear lack of progress being made over how the federal and provincial governments will split the costs of entitlement settlement.

Negotiations are based on a report released in May, 1990, by Treaty Commissioner Cliff Wright, a former mayor of Saskatoon. Among the recommendations in that report, Commissioner Wright proposed that the federal and provincial governments agree to provide cash to Bands who will then be free to purchase land.

At present, high-level discussions are taking place between the two governments. However, the FSIN have not been included in these discussions. Since January the FSIN has been given vague assurances that progress has been made, but no details have been released to the Chiefs.

During the assembly, the Chiefs of Bands with land entitlements arrived at some decision regarding the future course of negotiations. They demanded a series of intense negotiations over the next two weeks, which would culminate in a critical meeting between the Chiefs and high-level federal and provincial officials on August 15.

If no Framework Agreement has been secured by the end of August, the Chiefs will be reviewing its options.

The Chiefs concur with the FSIN position of negotiation rather than confrontation.

One option the Chiefs will consider is reaching a bilateral agreement with the federal government, without the involvement of the province.

As one Chief put it: "They're (federal and provincial governments) wasting our time. We need that land, but all we seem to be doing is wasting our time, energy and resources over negotiations which are going nowhere."

For further information contact Dan Bellegarde at 721-2922 or Winston McLean at 665-1215.