First Nation chiefs from across the province came together at the FSIN offices in Saskatoon on Friday afternoon to stand in solidarity and speak out against what they say is the provincial government’s infringements on First Nations inherent and Treaty rights.
More than 30 chiefs, representing First Nations and tribal councils from across the province, joined members of the FSIN executive to voice their displeasure.
The main area of concern is the Saskatchewan First Act. A piece of legislation First Nation governments and organizations have repeatedly spoke out against since it was first introduced by the Saskatchewan Government this fall.
The following is a list of chiefs who were in attendance at Friday’s press conference:
Regional Chief Bobby Cameron, Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations – 1 st Vice Chief David Pratt, Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations – 4th Vice Chief Heather Bear, Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations – Chief Lorie Whitecalf, Sweetgrass First Nation (tentative) – Chief Clinton Key, Key First Nation – Chief Evan Taypotat, Kahkewistahaw First Nation – Vice Chief George Tsannie, Prince Albert Grand Council – Chief Karen Bird, Peter Ballantyne First Nation – Chief Fabian Head, Red Earth First Nation – Chief Joyce Naytowhow, Montreal Lake Cree Nation – Chief Scott Eashappie, Carry the Kettle Nakoda Nation – Chief Margaret Bear, Ochapawace First Nation – Chief Teddy Clark, Clearwater River Dene Nation – Chief Edwin Ananas, Beardy’s & Okemasis First Nation – Chief Cheryl Kahpeaysewat, Moosomin First Nation – Chief Lori Whitecalf, Sweetgrass First Nation – Vice Chief Richard Durocher, Meadow Lake Tribal Council – Chief Leon Crookedneck, Island Lake First Nation (Ministikwan Lake Cree Nation) – Chief Donny Ironchild, Littlepine First Nation – Chief Derek Sunshine, Fishing Lake First Nation – Chief Ava Bear, Muskoday First Nation – Chief Kevin Mercredi, Fond Du Lac Denesuline Nation – Chief Annette Lonechild, Whitebear First Nation – Chief Marcel Head, Shoal Lake Cree Nation – Chief Francis Dieter, Peepeekisis Cree Nation – Tribal Chief Isabel O’Soup, Yorkton Tribal Council – Chief Lee-Anne Kehler, Kawacatoose First Nation – Chief Ira McArthur, Pheasant Rump First Nation – Chief Byron Bitternose, George Gordon First Nation – Chief Jerry Bernard, English River First Nation – Chief Blaine Fiddler, Waterhen First Nation – Chief Larry Ahenakew, Ahtahkakoop First Nation – Chief Anne Thomas, Witchekan Lake First Nation – Chief Tanya Aguilar-Antiman, Mosquito Grizzly Bear’s Head First Nation – Chief Crystal Okemow, Lucky Man First Nation – Chief Peter Watson – Headman, Chacachas First Nation – Chief Clarence Bellegard, Little Black Bear First Nation – Chief Henry Lewis, Onion Lake Cree Nation
Many of the the chiefs gathered addressed the Saskatchewan First Act.
While a wide variety of topics were discussed a through-line of many of the speakers was pointing to the fact that treaties predate the province of Saskatchewan by decades and any legislation the province passes in regards to sovereignty must be in full consultation with Indigenous people.
The chiefs also feel a lack of consultation has been undertaken with thee proposed legislation.
In addition, many stated Indigenous people did not give up their rights to resources under the land through treaty with some of the chiefs re-iterating the treaty line “to the depths of a plow.”
The last to speak was FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron who pointed to the many chiefs gathered in the room.
“This shows the public we are united,” said Cameron who wasn’t shy about speaking on potential action to come in the new year.
“We have mandates to move forward politically and legally and we are getting to the point where we might start blockading,” he said.
The Saskatchewan Government has maintained the Saskatchewan First Act will not infringe on Indigenous rights.
Federal Justice Minister David Lametti also told the recent AFN national assembly he doesn’t believe these provincial sovereignty acts like the Saskatchewan First Act and similar legislation in Alberta will negatively affect Treaty rights.
However, Cameron isn’t buying it.
“Stop saying it doesn’t affect inherent treaty rights…yes it does… and you have heard it from chiefs across Canada,” he said. “We will protect our lands and resources as we see fit. We must put an end to the Saskatchewan First Act.
We are going to take action and we are going to do it really quick,” said the FSIN Chief. “We will win based on treaty.”
The province did not provide an immediate response to Friday afternoon’s press conference.
(PHOTO – First Nation Chiefs from across the province come together in solidarity to speak out against the Saskatchewan First Act.)