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LEFT TO RIGHT:
P.A. GRAND COUNCIL CHIEF ALPHONSE BIRD,
PETER BALLANTYNE CREE NATION CHIEF RON MICHEL,
FSIN CHIEF ROLAND CROWE
"The future years will see positive benefits for our people from Treaty Land Entitlement", said Chief Ron Michel in his speech. In the next eleven years $62.4 million will be to the PBCN. The entitlement funds will be used to secure land for the band's seven thousand plus members, in the single largest agreement to be signed in Saskatchewan. Some of the lands have been selected, and now the implementation process begins to transfer the chosen acres over to PBCN ownership. Once PBCN has purchased their "shortfall acres", the entitlement funds may be used for community and economic development, or to purchase more land.
PBCN has selected Peace Hills Trust as the financial institution which offers the best protection from taxation of the interest carried on entitlement funds. Mr. Warren Hannay, CEO of Peace Hills Trust gave a speech at the signing, saying that Peace Hills Trust will work closely with the trustees of PBCN to achieve the Nation's goals.
Seven trustees have been selected to oversee the use of the entitlement funds. Dennis Morin, trustee from Sandy Bay, says "It is a tribute to our fathers and grandfathers that we are here today. I would like to see the money spent to buy land, not to settle deficits." The trustees are to commence training in Saskatoon, at the Peace Hills Trust branch on the Asimakaneesikan Reserve # 102A. Their responsibility will be great, but words of support and encouragement were offered by Chief Michel for the trustees to represent the beneficiaries, the Cree Nation in the best way possible.
The Grand Entry began at 12:30 pm, accompanied by Sturgeon Lake Singers. It was an emotional and impressive display, as elders carried the National flags into the gymnasium. Chief Ron Michel walked in beside Chief Roland Crowe of Federation of Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, and Tribal Chief Alphonse Bird of the Prince Albert Grand Council. Elders and young dancers followed, trailed by the councillors, trustees, invited dignitaries and provincial and federal representatives. Elders Mary Ann Morin and Josette Morin sang "O Canada" in their first language, Cree. Elder Oscar Beatty gave the opening prayer in Cree and English, and the Victory song was performed by the Sturgeon Lake singers.
After welcoming remarks by Councillor Philip Morin, Prince Albert PBCN, the Official Party was introduced. Seated to the right of the podium were Chief Roland Crowe, FSIN; Vice Chief Dan Bellegarde, FSIN Tribal Chief Alphonse Bird, Prince Albert Grand Council; Lawrence Joseph, Prince Albert Deputy Mayor; Mr. Cliff Wright, Treaty Commissioner; Mr. Gordon Kirkby, MP Prince Albert Churchill River; Hon. Keith Goulet, MLA Cumberland; Hon. Eldon Lautermilch, MLA Prince Albert Northcote; Mr. Al Gross, Negotiator - Specific Claims West; Mr. Warren Hannay, President Peace Hills Trust; Joan Morin, Prince Albert Trustee; Joseph Michel, Sturgeon Landing Trustee; Hermalene Fagnon, Denare Beach Trustee; Dennis Morin, Sandy Bay Trustee; George Sewap, Deschambault Lake Trustee; Richard Jobb, Southend Trustee; Etienne Ballantyne, Pelican Narrows Trustee; Councillor Norman Nataweyes, Sandy Bay PBCN; Councillor Louis Bear, Sandy Bay PBCN; Councillor Gertie Budd, Sturgeon Landing PBCN; Councillor Peter A. Beatty, Deschambault Lake PBCN; Councillor Jack Custer, Deschambault Lake PBCN; Councillor Ernest Cook, Southend PBCN; Rod Bird, Southend PBCN; Councillor Tom McDermott Denare Beach PBCN; Councillor Alex Morin, Pelican Narrows PBCN; Councillor Fred Ballantyne, Pelican Narrows PBCN; Councillor Ron Canada, Pelican Narrows PBCN; Councillor Graham Linklater, Pelican Narrows PBCN; Councillor Philip Morin, Prince Albert PBCN; Councillor Andrew C. Custer, Pelican Narrows PBCN; Chief Ron Michel, PBCN; Mr. Myler Savill, Regional Director General, Sask. Region, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.
The program was emceed by Gary Merasty and Larry Ahenakew who kept the afternoon running smoothly, with anecdotes to spare. The program began with welcoming remarks by Councillor Philip Morin. Official Party speeches followed, led by Chief Ron Michel. Chief Michel expressed thankfulness and appreciation for the arrival of this special day. After years of hard work negotiating the Band Specific and Trust Agreements, we are finally able to claim what is ours and get the entitlement process moving forward. He offered thanks to FSIN, Assembly of Entitlement Chiefs, and other First Nations. There were heartfelt thanks expressed to many others, too numerous to list them all.
Chief Roland Crowe addressed the gathering next, congratulating the achievements of "one of our First Nations". He added that this is a momentous day, and one of the most significant since the time of the treaties.
Vice-Chief Dan Bellegarde spoke next, thanking Winston McLean, Director of Treaty Land Entitlement, and Tom Semaganis, Coordinator for the work they did on the Treaty Land Entitlement Framework Agreement.
Chief Alphonse Bird spoke in Cree and English of the importance of an economic base for the future. Today the land base that was not honoured is finally being honoured.
Cliff Wright, Treat Commissioner offered congratulatory remarks to the assembly in his speech, offering all the best for the future, and thanking Chief Michel for all of the "firsts" he experienced during his time working with Chief Ron Michel and PBCN.
Mr. Myler Savill extended best wishes on behalf of the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, Mr. Ron Irwin. He likened PBCN to a river, which must rely on its streams for strength, as PBCN must rely on its membership. We have managed to put differences aside, to move forward with the Treaty entitlement. Mr. Savill offered "Good Luck, and Happy Implementation".
Gordon Kirkby expressed his feelings about the future relationships between Canada and First Nations, respecting inherent right to the land, and wished for many more successes in the future between Canadian and First Nations governments,
Keith Goulet remarked what a tremendous honour and privilege it is to witness this signing and historic occasion. As well, AI Gross, Lawrence Joseph, and Warren Hannay each offered congratulations and extended further aid in future issues.
In keeping with tradition, gifts were presented to the Official Party members. Group photos were taken, followed by closing remarks. Entertainment by the school students preceded dinner and a dance held in the Gymnasium at Opawikoscikan Reserve.
On a final note, the day marked the end of one journey, but the beginning of another. Tomorrow, the PBCN begins the steps to create reserve lands and opportunities for its members. For many, the implications of this Band Specific and Trust Agreement bring about a welcome change for the better, but the work is far from over. As Chief Alphonse Bird put it, while we celebrate the achievements of today, we must remember that there are many issues unresolved. With strength and courage, we will meet those challenges.
Sandy Bay Trustee
Prince Albert Trustee Joan Morin
PAGC Chief Alphonse Bird
Chief Ron Michel and child
Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation