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The 6 bands included Beardy's & Okemasis First Nation, English River Dene Nation, Keeseekoose First Nation, Pelican Lake First Nation, Red Pheasant First Nation and Witchekan Lake First Nation.
A total of 250 guests attended the awards banquet "Celebrating the fulfilment of Treaty Land Entitlement in Saskatchewan," that coincided with the Assembly of Entitlement Chiefs Conference on October. 6th & 7th, 1998. The event was held at the Adam Ballroom in the Delta Bessborou8h hotel in Saskatoon.
Dignitaries at the, diner included FSIN Chief Perry Bellegarde, the Honorable Bernie Weins, Minister for Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Affairs and comedian Dale Auger. The gala finished with a sneak preview of "Voices of the North."
The two day event was built upon the specifics of the shortfalls and to provide feedback and address concerns and issues the chiefs might encounter when acquiring land through the TLE process. What was readily apparent was the success several had in obtaining their shortfalls.
The Beardy's & Okemasis First Nation was obligated to purchase 11,648, acres, but instead managed to purchase 12,133 acres. English River was to buy 13,040, but obtained a total of 13,794 acres. The Keeseekoose band also passed their mark, purchasing 7,613 acres instead of the necessary 7,552 acres. The Pelican band purchased 7,093 acres to pass their shortfall of 5,961 acres. The Red Pheasant purchase of 25,046 was almost 5,000 acres more than what was required in the agreement, while the Witchekan Lake First Nation bought 8,840 acres to beat their shortfall target number of 7,923.
As several of the Chiefs at the event pointed out, the shortfalls meant much more than numbers of acres. It was also the celebration of developments long over due.
"It doesn't matter what treaty area your from, we still have the same rights," stated Chief Bellegarde. "Our people have waited over 100 years for this settlement." Bellegarde maintains that the TLE agreement "affects everyone as a whole, everyone benefits, is all part of the economy. Land prices have increased since the 1992 TLE agreement
Moreover the feeling at the conference was that this helps more than just First Nations economies. "It benefits all First Nations and the overall provincial economy. We need these mutual relationships and peaceful negotiations," states Bellegarde.
As Bellegarde and others have pointed out, there is still a good deal of unfinished business that needs attention. "We still have a share in the natural resources, we never gave up that right. There are many new challenges coming in the 21st century. We need good common ground. Many of our people are migrating into the urban settings, we cannot forget them. We must include them in our process to build community development."
Over all the two day event was an occasion worth celebration as it: reveals the considerable distance that many First Nations governments have come in the past few decades. According to Vice-chief Lawrence Joseph, the future looks promising as well. He indicated that despite the postponement of the business partnership forum (tentatively rescheduled for February 1999), several of the businesses who were to take Part in the forum, showed the degree of their interest in working with the chiefs.
Among the presenters were Canadian Shield Financial Services Aboriginal Business Canada Fortune Financial, the CIOC, Wardrop Engineering and the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority.
The most notable presentation was delivered by Darlene Hildebrandt from Royal Trust. She pro-
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vided interesting and valuable information to the Chiefs on the methods to exempt TLE trusts from tax after shortfall.
She underscored the importance of her experiences in representing the Manitoba entitlement chiefs with their TLEs. In Manitoba, the chiefs were recognized by Revenue Canada as public bodies performing a function of government in Canada. This was made possible with her understanding of Tax Law 149 (1) (c). As Hildebrandt correctly pointed out, this is information that Revenue Canada will not volunteer, and chiefs should be made aware of this for the benefit of those they represent.
It is presentations such as these that bold well for the future of cooperation between the corporate world and First Nations.