SASKATOON -- Leadership of the Mosquito Grizzly Bear’s Head Lean Man First Nation (MGBHLMFN) south of the Battlefords say they’re confident they will be compensated by more than $100 million in a long-outstanding land claim.

“We’re optimistic and hopeful that Canada will come back with a deal prior to decision but if we have to wait we have to wait,” said Chief Tanya Aguilar-Antiman.

According to court documents, the First Nation alleges that in 1905, Canada unlawfully took and sold 14,400 acres or 22.5 sections of its reserve land and sold it to about 90 farming settler families.

The land is located between the First Nation and the Battlefords.

“We have three Nakoda nations, Mosquito, Grizzly Bear Head, and Lean Man, the land that was lost was the Grizzly bear head area. The three bands came together and amalgamated in 1949. When the claim was submitted it was submitted on behalf of the three bands,” said Aguilar-Antiman.

The First Nation brought the claim to court in 1995 but it was denied with Canada questioning the validity. In 2011, the Specific Claims Tribunal Act enabled the First Nation to file a formal declaration of claim.

The process drew to a close last week during oral submissions made by legal counsel for both the First Nation and its legal counsel, Maurice Law, and the Crown, represented by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

“I really want to acknowledge all the formal leaders, our knowledge keepers; some are not here with us today and have passed on. They have been instrumental in moving this along and not giving up on the process. There have been growing pains but they didn’t give up,” said Aguilar-Antiman.

The First Nation, which now has a total population of 1,465 members, wants to be compensated for being denied proper payment for surrendered land in 1905, loss of economic opportunity and band members unable to live at home.

"Farming would have been big, ranching would have been big. We have over 100 families living in the area. Their preference would be to live on their own First Nation but they are living as close as they can to the Nation. With the land base that was taken we definitely would have that membership living on reserve,” Aguilar-Antiman said.

If the decision goes to the First Nation, MGBHLMFN says it has plans to put the money into a trust fund for future generations and it will also focus on building more housing and economic development.

“This is an opportunity for our generation and future generations. Housing is a number one issue. How we can utilize these resources long term and for generations to come. How is this going to protect our grandkids and our great grandkids down the road,” Aguilar-Antiman said.

The First Nation says the Specific Claims Tribunal has until August 2021 to make a decision on the claim.