By: Jessica R. Durling, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Humboldt Journal

Chakastaypasin Cree Nation Chief Calvin Sanderson and Melfort Mayor Glenn George signed a memorandum of understanding in Melfort city hall, formalizing a working relationship towards economic development.

The event on Dec. 13 began with a ceremonial smudging inside city hall followed by the formal signing of the agreement between the two leaders. Council members from the two communities were in attendance as well as Chief Bobby Cameron representing the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations and MLA Todd Goudy representing the province.

Sanderson said long-term they would like to look at creating a casino in Melfort, generating jobs and wealth for non-First Nations and First Nations members of the community alike.

“Our vision is to come and create an urban community here and also economic involvements,” Sanderson said.

“If we ever do bring a casino here it does benefit the charities and the non-charitable organizations because you can pack in the funding. So that’s our hopes and dreams is to try to bring something to Melfort, work together and create an economic arm for many generations.”

The Chakastaypasin Cree Nation has been negotiating with the Government of Canada since 2018 to secure land west of Birch Hills that was taken from their people in 1897. Sanderson said they’re expecting a “very substantial amount of compensation” which would generate economic arms, leading to Melfort developments.

Sanderson said they have a many members that come to school in Melfort and work.

“We’re going to work with the mayor and also the colleagues for how we can develop our goals.”

George said the signing gives their partnership structure and that they will be working together closely for mutual benefit.

“Now we’ll be able to plan rather than ad hoc here and there and everywhere and it just comes to be a mess, now we’ve got this memorandum going we can plan and make it prosperous,” George said.

“I don’t want to say too much more than that because we don’t know how it’s going to go, all we know now is we’re going to be working together to do what’s right for both Melfort and Chakastaypasin.

Cameron said the signing was symbolism that Treaty people on Treaty lands are getting recognized and having partnerships.

“Chakastaypasin chief and council are looking to the future for their First Nations, their children, their grandchildren and those unborn,” Cameron said.

“They want to create a legacy, they want to create economic development, they want to create jobs and revenue not just for their community, but for the surrounding community and this partnership with the City of Melfort is significant in that matter because it says, ‘We’re going to work together, we’re going to move forward together, we’re going to provide positive results in the area of economic development.’”

(Photo courtesy of Town of Melfort Facebook.)