The Chief of a Saskatchewan First Nation says his community will no longer be ruled under the Indian Act after becoming first self-governing Indigenous nation in the province.
Chief Darcy Bear, along with Councillors Dwayne Eagle and Frank Royal, announced on Tuesday that the members of Whitecap Dakota First Nation (WDFN) have successfully concluded their community approval vote to become a self-governing Indigenous nation, with the new arrangements set to take effect in the fall of 2023.
“I am very thankful to our members and their commitment to move the Whitecap Dakota Nation forward as a self-governing nation that is no longer under the control of an outdated Indian Act,” said Bear. “In approving our Constitution, we are asserting our inherent right and establishing broader law-making powers and fiscal certainty to continue to build our nation. Our lessons to date have taught us that taking more control over our affairs such as land management have paid incredible dividends in economic and social growth in our community.”
The vote, held on Oct. 6-7 via in-person voting in Whitecap and Saskatoon, together with an on-line virtual vote, resulted in 92 per cent member support to adopt a constitution and mandate Chief and Council to sign the Governance Agreement negotiated with the Government of Canada.
In response to the results, the Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, said, “Congratulations to the people of Whitecap Dakota First Nation on their vote for this historic self-government agreement. This is an important step for Whitecap in moving away from the Indian Act, implementing their inherent right to self-determination and seeing a better future for their community.”
The Governance Agreement, and a companion Fiscal Relationship Agreement and Implementation Plan, were negotiated with the federal government over a period of 10 years.
According to a media release, during that time WDFN undertook extensive consultation with its membership on the self-government arrangements and drafted a constitution that establishes the Whitecap Dakota Government as a new government within Canada’s constitutional framework.
Following Whitecap’s ratification, it will continue to work with the Government of Canada to formally sign the Governance Agreement and introduce legislation in Parliament. This legislation will legally recognize WDFN as a self-governing Indigenous nation.
Located 161 kilometres south of Prince Albert, Whitecap will join alongside the 78 other self-governing First Nations across Canada that are part of 27 various agreements, with Sioux Valley Dakota Nation in Manitoba the only other one located in the Prairies.