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"This agreement marks another step on the road to self-government for First Nations," said Chief Roland Crowe of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations. "In the past, fire fighting on reserves was controlled by the Province. Indian people had little input into fire management in their own communities.
"The new deal we sign today will change that. First Nations will co-manage the resource with the Province. This is an innovative approach and shows what can be accomplished when the three levels of government co-operate for the benefit of people at the community level. I would like to congratulate the individuals on all sides who worked hard to make this agreement a reality."
The four-month agreement provides for 22 standby fire crews to be located in 16 First Nation communities. Total employment will be more than 100 fire fighters.
"Unemployment on reserves is very high and these jobs are certainly welcome," Chief Crowe said. "While the present deal is for only one year, we are confident it will be extended for the long-term."
When not actively fighting fires, the crews will be involved in a fire patrol system and in clearing the reserve of "fuel", such as dead trees and other debris. Protection of the resource will be an important part of the crews' job.
"Our people are taught to respect and care for Mother Earth. This agreement provides the resources to better care for the forests on our First Nations communities," Chief Crowe said.