Indigenous leaders plan action against Saskatchewan First Act
Some of the chiefs drove hours to attend the Saskatoon convention, where many shared their frustration with the bill.
Kahkewistahaw First Nation chief Evan Taypotat called for action and said the issue will not be resolved in a boardroom.
“Let’s do it on land,” he said, noting that his First Nation is “ready for battle.”
FSIN chief Bobby Cameron added to Taypotat’s comments.
“We’re going to take action, and we’re going to do it very quickly,” Cameron said, warning that tribal people are nearing the point of putting up blockades to protest the law.
He would not elaborate on his plan other than saying it will happen in 2023.
Regarding legal action, Cameron said the FSIN is considering putting together a lawsuit against the government in what he says could be a years-long process.
“We will not ask to sit down with the government. We will not ask for talks. We’ve done enough of that,” Cameron said.
In a message to Moe, Margaret Bear, chief of the Ochapowace First Nation, said her community signed Treaty 4 and her time on the land dates back hundreds of years.
The treaty, signed in 1874, predates Saskatchewan’s founding as a province by more than 30 years. Bear said the treaty made “clear promises” that tribal peoples would be able to maintain their traditional lifestyles. The items negotiated and promised to tribal peoples are for the joy of their people and for posterity forever, she added.
“And Saskatchewan has the gall to think they have exclusive ownership of our land and resources,” Bear said.
Several chiefs have criticized the law as trying to protect the province’s interests without mentioning the indigenous people, saying it violates the rights of the indigenous treaties.
“We will not sit on the sidelines while two foreign parties continue to steal our resources from our backyard,” Bear said. “This land was given to us by the Creator and we will not sit back and watch this happen.”
Bear urged the Prime Minister and provincial government to repeal Bill 88 immediately.
“Without action there is no reconciliation,” she said.
Chief Crysta Okemow of Lucky Man First Nation said the law would encourage the annihilation of Saskatchewan’s indigenous people. She said the province is not a nation within a nation and urged the province to honor treaties signed by indigenous people.
“Stop being ignorant and do better,” Okemov said.
Meadow Lake Tribal Council vice chief Richard Durocher said treaty signings were attended by only two participants: the Crown and the aborigines. He stressed that Saskatchewan and its government were not formed until many years later.
“Give us back our land, for it rightly belongs to us, not Saskatchewan,” said Chief Cheryl Kahpeaysewat of Moosomin First Nation.
“How are we supposed to reconcile with a government that doesn’t listen to us?” asked Joyce Naytowhow, Chief of the Montreal Lake Cree Nation.
Lamenting the ongoing loss of Indigenous lands and resources, Naytowhow said Moe has a duty to consult with First Nations people.