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Beardy’s & Okemasis First Nation to receive $4.5M for withheld treaty payments
Kevin Menz and Mark Villani , CTV Saskatoon
Published Tuesday, February 14, 2017 1:02PM CST
Last Updated Tuesday, February 14, 2017 7:15PM CST
A First Nation north of Saskatoon is set to receive $4.5 million Wednesday following a grievance claim stemming back to the 1885 Riel Resistance.
The Specific Claims Tribunal awarded the Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation the funds on Jan. 23, about a year and a half after a judge with the tribunal ruled the Crown breached its obligation to pay treaty annuities to 14 First Nations, including Beardy’s and Okemasis, following the Louis Riel-led uprising.
“This is an important moment in the history of our Nation. Our ancestors endured hardship so that we might have a prosperous future,” a media release from Beardy’s and Okemasis stated.
The First Nation, located in Treaty 6 territory, states the Crown withheld payments for three years.
“From 1885 until 1888, men, women, and children were denied their Treaty right to an annual $5 payment; for 4 years, our ancestors endured hardship at the hands of a government that lacked compassion and whose true motive was to control and subjugate our people,” the release stated.
The FSIN stated last year the government at the time labelled people on the 14 First Nations as “rebel Indians.”
Crown officials confiscated guns, horses, cattle, carts, wagons and Treaty medals from the bands, the FSIN stated. The government enforced a pass system, which prevented First Nations people from leaving their reserves without permission, and officials did not allow the Beardy’s and Okemasis band to establish a chief and council until 1936.
Beardy’s and Okemasis officials say the $4.5 million will be used to establish a legacy trust. The fund will “guarantee a prosperous and sustainable future for the next 7 generations,” the media release from the First Nation stated.
Each member of the band will receive $250, while payments for members under 18 will go to a primary caregiver. The money will be distributed at the community’s arena on March 2 and 3.
The funds will also be used to help the First Nation negotiate a $3.5-million loan to renovate the Blackhawks Esso.
The 13 other Saskatchewan First Nations listed in the claim are Chakastaypasin, Little Pine, Lucky Man, Moosomin, Mosquito/Grizzly Bear’s Head/Lean Man, Muskeg Lake, One Arrow, Onion Lake, Poundmaker, Red Pheasant, Sweetgrass, Thunderchild and Young Chipewayan.
Calgary-based lawyer Ron Maurice, who represented Beardy’s and Okemasis, is working on behalf of 12 of the remaining 13 First Nations and said he’s still working to settle the 12 cases.
He estimates $45 million has been collectively withheld from the First Nations.
--- with files from The Canadian Press