Federal government gives local First Nation $4.1 million in compensation for withheld salaries

The announcement opened this year's annual St. Michael's Indian Residential School Gathering in Duck Lake -- Bailey Sutherland/Daily Herald

Beardy’s and Okemasis Cree Nation has reached a historical settlement with the Government of Canada for compensation over 66 years of withheld salaries from the community’s leadership by the Crown after they were associated with the Northwest Rebellion. 

Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Marc Miller announced Monday that the Canadian Government would be giving Beardy’s and Okemasis $4.1 million to reflect the financial value of the funds withheld from 1885 to 1951. ‘

“Canada, I guess they said Beardy’s was part of the Rebellion, so we were stripped of our Chief and our Council members for so many years,” said Beardy’s and Okemasis Chief Edwin Ananas.

Miller said an important part of the reconciliation process was listening to what Indigenous people have been telling the federal government “for ages.” That was a big part of Monday’s announcement.

“This punishment against communities that were a part of the Northwest Resistance, a part of our history and a part of the basis for Canada… It’s a sad element of our history and it’s something that we need to recognize and compensate for,” Miller said.

Anasas said First Nations members will determine where the settlement money goes, but all 3,600 on and off-reserve members of Beardy’s and Okemasis will benefit in some way. Their main focus is on the community’s infrastructure and adequate housing for band membership. 

“It’s about financial compensation, but also about respect and dignity,” said Miller. “That’s something that was denied from the community for well over 66 years and even after that… I think this is something we can all agree is a pretty black-and-white violation of treaty.”

According to Ananas, Beardy’s and Okemasis are still fighting to resolve other issues with the Government of Canada, including a Cows and Plows claim that he says will play a huge factor in the community’s future. 

The salaries claim was settled in June, but was announced on the morning of August 8 during the opening of the second annual St. Michael’s Indian Residential School Gathering. Survivors will come together for a week-long opportunity to share stories and engage in ceremony on the former grounds of the St. Michael’s Indian Residential School in Duck Lake.