FSIN threatens blockades and legal action unless province repeals Sask. First Act
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) has announced it will begin organizing blockades and exploring legal avenues to uphold inherent treaty rights, which they say are associated with the Saskatchewan government’s implementation of the Saskatchewan First Act get hurt.
On Friday afternoon, First Nations leadership from across the province gathered at FSIN headquarters for a news conference in Saskatoon to demand that Scott Moes Sask. The party government repeals the law amending the constitution to affirm Saskatchewan’s autonomy and exclusive legislative jurisdiction over the province’s natural resources.
“Government policies and legislation continue to encourage rights erosion and assimilation in hopes of eliminating Native Americans,” said Lucky Man Cree Nation Chief Crystal Okemow. “Premier Moe, I am deeply concerned by the utter disregard and lack of respect for our treaties, our country and the well-being of our future generations.”
Okemov said Bill 88 was passed without consultation with the First Nations of Saskatchewan and that there is nothing in the Saskatchewan First Act that recognizes treaty rights that are recognized and upheld by the Canadian Constitution.
“Our ancestors made a treaty with the Imperial Crown in 1879, 25 years before the Dominion of Canada established Saskatchewan as a province. Crown promises and commitments in Treaty 6 continue to bind the Crown law of Canada and that province. Where is the honor of the crown?” Okemov asked.
“Canada is built on the murder, rape, tribal plunder, blood and tears of my ancestors; it still happens today. Murder our rights, rape our children of their birthrights and their future, plunder our mother and continue the trail of blood and tears to the annihilation and termination of the Indian,” Okemow said. “Racist systems have no place on Indian Land.”
Chief Margaret Bear of the Ochapowace Nation said Treaty 4, signed by their leaders and the Crown in 1874, made an unequivocal promise that by agreeing to share the land, the people of Ochapowace would preserve their way of life and secure their prosperity forever .
“Thirty-one years prior to the founding of Saskatchewan, and Saskatchewan has the gull believing they have the exclusive rights and ownership of our lands and resources,” Bear said. “We are the original rights holders of this country; no policy or action will tell us otherwise.”
Bear said the federal and provincial governments talked about reconciliation but with no action.
“True reconciliation means we share with you, not you with yourself, while defending a colonial thinking that Saskatchewan has exclusive jurisdiction over natural resources,” she said. “The actions of Saskatchewan in claiming jurisdiction over natural resources are a breach and a violation of the true spirit and intent of the treaty between our indigenous nations and the Crown of Britain.”
In alliance with the FSIN, Chief Roger Redman of the non-treaty band Standing Buffalo Dakota Nation pledged to support the FSIN if it challenges the provincial government over its alleged ownership of Saskatchewan’s natural resources.
Redman claimed the Sask. The party government is attempting to create a basic framework for gaining legal title to treaty land.
“We have to get up, because what’s the point of all this? It’s about money,” Redman said. “Our responsibility as nations, as leaders, is to protect our mother, our ancestors, and the next seven generations.”
As a nation bound by Treaty 6, Moosomin leader Cheryl Kahpeaysewat is calling for the immediate repeal of Bill 88 and urging the Saskatchewan government to consult with the province’s First Nations before enacting the law.
“I’m here to help protect our resources, because those resources are for our children, our unborn children. When we leave Mother Earth, what is there for our children?” asked Kahpeaysewat. “Let’s stand together as leaders and fight for our children.”
Kahkewistahaw First Nation chief Evan Taypotat said now is the time to act; Media releases and press conferences are not enough to bring about change.
“There are currently about 35 chiefs sitting in this room, each of us has about 10,000 Indians behind us. 35,000 Indians on our freeways, on our railroads, in our cities, we’re going to make some noise,” said Taypotat, who is currently in a fight against the Mosiac firm for failing to engage with the Kahkewistahaw First Nation , while she mines thousands of dollars of potash from the community’s ancestral lands.
“We tried to be rational, we tried to be diplomatic. We’d love to resolve this in a boardroom, but that’s not going to happen,” he said. “Kahkewistahaw First Nation has had enough; I think Saskatchewan’s 74 First Nations have had enough.”
Taypotat said his community is ready to fight as they are running out of options.
“We have a mandate from the Chiefs in Assembly to move forward politically and legally and we are close to the point where we will start the blockade,” said FSIN chief Bobby Cameron, adding that people at the grassroots urge him to take serious action.
Cameron said legal and political avenues are already in place to begin the fight against the Sask. Saskatchewan First Act of the party.
“We will protect our land and resources as we see fit,” Cameron said. “To the provincial government, you must put an end to The Sask. First act, because treaties are international law; they trump provincial law.”
According to Cameron, the FSIN will become active in the new year. This includes filing a complaint, which can take years in the court system before a decision is made. The organization of blockades is left to the chiefs and their people at the base.
“Here’s the problem, billions of dollars have been stolen from our traditional land. We shouldn’t have a housing shortage, we shouldn’t give advice on boiling water, we shouldn’t have fewer opportunities for our youth and our elderly if we were full partners in resource development,” Cameron said. “We’re not going to ask to sit down with the government, we’re not going to ask to have talks, we’ve done enough of that.”
Justice Department spokesman Noel Busse issued a statement late Friday afternoon on behalf of the province. The statement defends Bill 88 by asserting “exclusive Saskatchewan jurisdiction over laws relating to the matters set forth in Sections 92 and 92A and does not limit or limit existing First Nations rights.”
– Featuring files by Rob O’Flanagan/Saskatoon StarPhoenix