FSIN threatens blockades and legal action unless province repeals Sask. First Act

FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron. (Herald file photo)

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) has announced they will begin organizing blockades and exploring legal avenues in an effort to uphold inherent treaty rights that they say are being infringed upon with the introduction of the Government of Saskatchewan’s Saskatchewan First Act.

On Friday afternoon, leadership from First Nations across the province gathered at FSIN headquarters for a press conference in Saskatoon to demand that Scott Moe’s Sask. Party government repeal the Act that amends the Constitution to confirm Saskatchewan’s autonomy and exclusive legislative jurisdiction over the province’s natural resources.

“Government policy and legislation continues to advance the erosion of rights and assimilation in hopes of elimination of the Indian,” said Lucky Man Cree Nation Chief Crystal Okemow. “Premier Moe, I’m very concerned about the total disregard and lack of respect for our treaties, our lands, and the wellbeing of our future generations.”

Okemow said Bill 88 came about without any consultation with the First Nations of Saskatchewan, and there is nothing within The Saskatchewan First Act that recognizes treaty rights that are recognized and affirmed by the Canadian Constitution.

“Our ancestors made treaty with the Imperial Crown in 1879, 25 years before the Dominion of Canada created Saskatchewan as a province. Promises and undertakings made by the Crown in Treaty 6 continue to bind the Crown right of Canada and this province. Where is the honour of the Crown?” asked Okemow.

“Canada is built on the murder, rapes, tribal pillage, blood and tears of my ancestors; it’s still happening today. Murdering our rights, raping our children of their birth rights and future, pillaging our Mother and continuing on the trail of blood and tears to the extinction and termination of the Indian,” Okemow said. “Racist systems have no place on Indian Land.”

Chief Margaret Bear of the Ochapowace Nation said Treaty 4 signed by their leaders and the Crown in 1874 unequivocally promised that by agreeing to share the land, the people of Ochapowace would maintain their way of life and ensure their prosperity forever.

“Thirty-one years prior to Saskatchewan coming into existence, and Saskatchewan has the gull to think they have exclusive rights and ownership of our lands and resources,” said Bear. “We are the original right holders of this land; no policy or act is going to tell us different.”
Bear said the federal and provincial governments talk reconciliation, but without any action.

“True reconciliation means we share with you, not you share with yourselves while defending a colonial thinking that Saskatchewan has exclusive jurisdiction over natural resources,” she said. “The actions of Saskatchewan claiming jurisdiction over natural resources is a breach and violation of the true spirit and intent of treaty making between our Indigenous nations and the Crown of Great Britain.”

In alliance with the FSIN, Chief Roger Redman of the non-treaty band Standing Buffalo Dakota Nation promised to support the FSIN as they challenge the provincial government on its perceived ownership over Saskatchewan’s natural resources.

Redman claimed the Sask. Party government is attempting to build a foundational framework to establish legal standing over treaty land.

“We have to stand up, because what is this all about? It’s about money,” said Redman. “Our responsibilities as nations, as leaders, is to protect our Mother, and our ancestors, and the next seven generations.”

As a nation bound by Treaty 6, Moosomin Chief Cheryl Kahpeaysewat is calling for the immediate retraction of Bill 88 and is asking for the Saskatchewan Government to consult with the province’s Indigenous people before enacting the legislation.

“I’m here to help protect our resources because those resources are for our children, our unborn children. When we leave Mother Earth, what is there for our children?” asked Kahpeaysewat. “As leaders, lets stand together and fight for our children.”

Kahkewistahaw First Nation Chief Evan Taypotat said now is the time for action; media releases and press conferences are not enough to invoke change.

“In this room right now, there are about 35 chiefs, each of us have around 10,000 Indians behind us. 35,000 Indians on our highways, on our railways, in our cities, we’ll make some noise,” said Taypotat, who is currently in a fight against the Mosiac company for their failure to engage with the Kahkewistahaw First Nation while mining thousands of dollars of potash from the community’s traditional territory.

“We tried to be rational, we tried to be diplomatic. We’d like to solve this in a boardroom, but that’s not going to happen,” he said. “Kahkewistahaw First Nation has had enough; I believe the 74 First Nations of Saskatchewan have had enough.”

Taypotat said his community is ready to fight, as they are running out of options.

“We have mandates from the chiefs in assembly to move forward politically, legally, and we’re about to the point where we’re going to start blockading,” said FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron, who added that grassroots people are calling on him to begin serious action.
Cameron said legal and political avenues are already in place to begin the fight against the Sask. Party’s Saskatchewan First Act.

“We will protect our lands and resources as we see fit,” said Cameron. “To the provincial government, you must put an end to The Sask. First Act because treaties are of international law; they trump provincial law.”

According to Cameron, the FSIN will begin taking action in the New Year. This includes filing a Statement of Claim, which could take years in the court system before a decision is made. Organizing blockades is being left up to the chiefs and their grassroots people.

“Here’s the problem, there have been billions of dollars extracted from our traditional lands. We should not have a shortage of housing, we should have boil water advisories, we should not have lesser opportunities for our youth and our elders if we were full partners in resource development,” Cameron said. “We won’t be asking to sit down with the government, we won’t be asking to have conversations, we’ve done enough of that.”

Ministry of Justice spokesman Noel Busse issued a statement late Friday afternoon on behalf of the province. The statement defends Bill 88 as asserting “the exclusive jurisdiction of Saskatchewan over laws with respect to matters set out in sections 92 and 92A and does not restrict or limit existing First Nations rights.”

—with files from Rob O’Flanagan/Saskatoon StarPhoenix