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Starblanket Treaty Land Entitlement Profile

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 1994      v23 n07 p19 (Insert)  
Adherence to Treaty: The Starblanket band adhered to Treaty Four in 1874 under Chief Wahpimoostoosis (White Calf). Forty three people were paid with the band that year. The 1875 pay lists note that White Calf was deceased, and that "The Man who has Stars for a Blanket," Ahchacoosacootacoopetis, had become chief.

Background: Wahpimoostoosis was a Plains Cree leader who hunted from the File Hills south to Wood Mountain and the Cypress Hills. His people were the Calling River Cree, affiliated with the band of Loud Voice. It was a small band, and they remained hunters even after a reserve was surveyed for them in the Crooked Lakes area in 1876 by William Wagner. They did not settle on the reserve, and moved to the File Hills area in the late 1870s. In 1880, W.P. Patrick surveyed another reserve (#83) for them just north of that surveyed for Okanese. Once their reserve was surveyed, the band stayed in the File Hills, their population remaining small. The band was paid continuously after 1885 as part of the File Hills Agency.

Shortfall: The reserve was 13,760 acres, enough land for 107 people. This is also the number of people who were paid annuities in 1880. There was, therefore, a match of reserve size and population in Patrick's survey of 1880. Subsequently, however, a number of people returned to the band who had been absent.

Validation: A submission was made to Canada, and a shortfall of 2,752 acres, enough land for 22 people (absentees), was identified by 1979. An offer to settle under the Saskatchewan Formula was made to the band which would have provided an additional 10,816 acres. Part of this entitlement was fulfilled in 1983 when the property of the Lebret Student residence, 55 acres, was transferred to the band.

TLE Band Specific Agreement: Currently the band consists of 382 people, approximately half of whom live on the reserve. In March 1993 the band membership ratified the Band Specific Agreement, with a strong majority vote in favour. Under the Agreement, Starblanket has a 4,672 acre shortfall with a ceiling of 11,385 Equity acres. Land selection and planning is done by the band's TLE committee, composed of the Council, the trustees, the technical staff, and representatives of the community. The First Nation has decided to pursue the northern crown land for shortfall, foregoing, for the time being, expensive agricultural land in the south. This strategy is based on the example set by their forefathers who signed Treaty Four, in consideration of the needs of the future generations. By investing wisely now, they hope to extend the benefits far into the future.

Purchases: In 1983 the band selected seven lots of surplus Crown properties in the town of Fort Qu'Appelle, also under the understanding that TLE would be settled by the Saskatchewan Formula. After the Formula was dropped in 1987, the band continued to pursue the acquisition of the properties, negotiating with both the federal and municipal governments. Negotiations with the Town of Fort Qu'Appelle for a service agreement between the band and the town fell apart in 1990 when the town decided to back away because of a dispute over another claim.

When the opportunities provided by the Framework Agreement came into effect in 1992, the band and the town resumed negotiations, and reached an agreement for servicing in February 1994. after some period of acrimony and misunderstanding. An agreement had already been reached, meanwhile, with the school board over tax loss. Work then began on getting two lots transferred to reserve status. On July 1, 1994, the Star Blanket First Nation celebrated this transfer, the first land to become reserve under the Framework Agreement.

Under Consideration: Starblanket has searched the north and has asked the province to freeze some northern crown land as the band is interested in purchasing it. The purchase is in line with an economic development plan the band has for the land, based on the tourism potential. If the province makes the land available for sale, the band will approach the federal government to have the land transferred to reserve status.

Meanwhile, there are four more lots in Fort Qu'Appelle adjacent to the new reserve which the band wants to acquire to complete their urban development centre, and negotiations are underway concerning these properties, all of which have been declared surplus at some time.

Future Developments: Relations between the First Nation and the Town of Fort Qu'Appelle had quieted since the signing of the service agreement. The new urban development centre will be administered by the Star Blanket First Nation, but development will be compatible with the zoning and bylaws of the town. Peace Hills trust will soon be moving into the renovated Post Office building on reserve, as will the Saskatchewan Indian Equity Foundation. These businesses will provide opportunity for economic growth for both the town and the First Nation. First Nations institutions and businesses already employ over 300 people in Fort Qu'Appelle.

Band representative Noel Starblanket stressed the need to plan for further development very carefully, avoiding overpaying for land and illicit business propositions, and paving the way for both a long-term economic base and good relations:

When my grandfather and great grandfather signed the treaty, they were talking about me and now I've got to talk about my grandchildren and the youth, and so that's the kind of process we're trying to continue in this whole treaty-making process and that's what we try to remember when we work in TLE, to think about the future and make sure that we provide for the future. Its a very difficult, technological world that we live in and we have to do the best we can to provide for our kids in terms of a land base, an economic base, and whatever else we can provide them with: jobs, education, security in their own lives, and all the rest of it. It means trying to do the best we can, often making compromises between ourselves and the various levels of gov't, federal and provincial, municipal, and also having to work with white society as a whole, trying understand them, trying to work with them, and yet at the same time educating them to understand us. That is a very important part of the TLE process, being able to work with that group of people and to make them understand us, and with understanding there'll be better things to happen. I met a lot of good people in this province and this country as a result of this process, and made a lot of people understand what we're trying to do and that we're trying to do things properly. It has also brought a lot of pride to our people in standing up and fighting...Indian people are starting to gain dignity and respect as a result of this. There are those who will never understand it and don't want to, and never will. On the other hand, there's a whole lot of good people out there who want to and will understand it. There will be benefits coming out of it for those people, and its happening now. All of that bodes well for the coming together of a people.