Eagle Feather News
Two First Nations in Saskatchewan are banding together to say no to the proposed sale of their traditional territory by the Saskatchewan government.
The chiefs of Waterhen Lake First Nation and Flying Dust First Nation, which are an hour a part and both in Treaty 6 territory, signed two Memorandums of Understanding with each other at the end of June stating that any sale or lease of unoccupied Crown land would be opposed by their leadership.
The signings were in response to a letter Chief Joanne Roy received on June 1st from the Minister of Agriculture as part of the province’s duty to consult with First Nations about government decisions that could negatively impact Treaty rights.
Roy said the idea for the MOUs came from Elders from both nations who gathered to discuss the Minister’s letter at Pagan Lake on June 9. The gathering took place on land where, according to Roy, Elders have historically fished and trapped.
Roy signed MOUs with Flying Dust Chief Jeremy Norman on June 23 and 27, during both Nation’s Treaty Days celebrations.
“We showed sovereignty with each other by going to each other’s First Nations communities…to say we’re going to bond nation-to-nation to make that stance that we need to protect our traditional territories,” Roy said.
Roy has written to the government saying she opposes the sale of the land. She also asked for an extension to the 40-day time limit her leadership was given to gather evidence of her community’s historical use of the land in question.
“First Nations are not well built in capacity in regards to resource people or having a specific person working on the history of our community,” she said. “Forty days, realistically, that’s just not possible.”
Roy said the land has historically been used for berry-picking, the picking and gathering of medicines, fishing and hunting and living off traplines. She also said the history of some parcels of the land are lost because Elders carrying that knowledge have passed on.
According to the Saskatchewan government’s First Nations and Métis Consultation Policy Framework, created in 2010, the government decides when duty to consult is “triggered” and how much consultation is required.
“In the case of asserted rights, the Government is also responsible for determining whether there is a credible basis for the claim,” the document states.
Decisions that require consultation include legislation and policy changes, fish and wildlife management, resource extraction and environmental approvals.
The government doesn’t have a good record of consulting with Roy’s Nation. Several years ago, when she was a councillor, she said an eco-lodge was built in Meadow Lake Provincial Park on her people’s sacred land.
“They came knocking on the door after the fact,” she said. “We have maps showing that there were burial sites, that it was a ceremonial place but it didn’t stop the government from allowing it to happen. It’s very frustrating.”
Roy is waiting for a response from the provincial government.