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Cows and Plows: FSIN calls on province, feds to remove cap on settlement claim

More than a dozen chiefs from across Saskatchewan joined together Tuesday at the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) headquarters in Saskatoon to voice their displeasure with a recent decision from the provincial government to withhold income assistance from First Nations citizens who receive more than $15,000 from per capita distributions from a recent settlement claim.

"This unilateral decision with no communication — unbeknownst to any chief, unbeknownst to the FSIN — in how they're taxing the poorest of the poor," FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron said.

"Why would your government do such a harmful act when our people are going to spend it in your towns and cities anyway?"

FSIN leadership says the federal government is following the province's lead in capping income assistance claim amounts at $15,000. After that, the person receiving the claim will be taxed.

The distribution payments are regarding historical unfulfilled agricultural commitments laid out in a Treaty 6 clause, signed in 1876.

The claims, often referred to as "Plows and Cows," was meant to push First Nations from a hunting-centric lifestyle to a more European-Canadian agriculture lifestyle of farming and raising livestock. The federal government promised to supply hand tools, farming equipment and seeds. First Nations say the government didn't fulfill these promises.

Recently, First Nations across the country have begun negotiating individual settlements with the federal government for these agriculture benefits.

"What the settlements are, are unfinished treaty business," Vice-chief Dutch Lerat said.

"They're outstandings treaty obligations."

Lerat said somewhere along the way these benefits "fell off the table." Legal research led the FSIN to realize the province would cap income assistance at $15,000 for communities who have already settled and those who will in the future.

"We too, as your FSIN ... call on the federal and provincial governments to rescind this policy," Lerat said.

Chief Tanya Aguilar-Antiman Stone of Mosquito, Grizzly Bear’s Head, Lean Man First Nation called the cap "unfortunate."

"Where did the $15,000 come from? It definitely does create division and separation between leadership and our membership because there's a lot of information that needs to be relayed and shared amongst our grassroots people to understand this cap," Aguilar-Antiman Stone said.

Lerat and Cameron said the FSIN plans on pursuing legal action to have the cap removed, but couldn't elaborate on what that looks like just yet. Top Stories

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