Indian Claims Commission

Indian Claims Commission

September 27, 2007 11:00 ET

Panel Recommends Sandy Bay First Nation's Claim not be Accepted for Negotiation

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Sept. 27, 2007) - In a report released today, an Indian Claims Commission (ICC) panel recommended that Canada not accept the Sandy Bay Ojibway First Nation's treaty land entitlement (TLE) claim for negotiation.

The panel for this inquiry, composed of Chief Commissioner Renee Dupuis (Chair) and Commissioners Daniel J. Bellegarde and Alan C. Holman, was asked to determine if the Sandy Bay First Nation, located on the southwest shore of Lake Manitoba, had an outstanding treaty land entitlement. To answer this question, the panel needed to establish the First Nation's population count, calculate how much land it was entitled to according to Treaty 1, and determine how much land was originally set aside for it.

One of the original signatories of Treaty 1 was the Portage Band, which later split into three distinct bands: the Long Plain First Nation, the Portage Band and the Sandy Bay Ojibway First Nation. Each band was to have its own reserve and a proportional share of the original Portage reserve which was a joint reserve for all three bands. Indian Reserve (IR) 5 was confirmed for the Sandy Bay First Nation in 1913. In the 1920s, questions surrounding the eastern boundary of the reserve were raised. The First Nation believed that the lake was the boundary; however, the marshland on the shore of the lake was not confirmed as part of the reserve until the 1930s.

The panel concluded that 12,102 acres were originally set aside for Sandy Bay in 1913, and that no marshland was included in the original reserve. The panel also found that the 3,840 acres of marshland confirmed as part of the reserve in the 1930s cannot be counted as part of the First Nation's treaty land entitlement, since the fundamental goal of Treaty 1 was to encourage First Nations to settle on reserves and develop an agriculturally based economy. Marshland would not have promoted this goal.

In addition, the panel found that the farms occupied prior to treaty by two band members, which fell within the boundaries of the reserve, should not be credited toward Sandy Bay's treaty land entitlement, since the band members occupied and improved the lands prior to entering into treaty. The panel noted that lands occupied by First Nation members prior to treaty should be in addition to reserve land granted to the First Nation and should not diminish the First Nation's TLE. The panel also concluded that both band members should be included in the First Nation's population count.

The panel found that the population count for Sandy Bay is 207, and that 17 people claimed by both the Sandy Bay First Nation and the Long Plain First Nation should be counted with the Long Plain First Nation. The Commissioners also noted that additional research should be conducted to determine if 38 non-treaty women should be added to Sandy Bay's population count.

"Due to limited evidence, the panel could not conclude whether to add 38 non-treaty women and an additional seven people to the Sandy Bay First Nation's population count. The First Nation declined to hold a community session, which would have made the oral history of its Elders available to the panel and may have clarified the evidence at the panel's disposal," said Chief Commissioner Renee Dupuis. "As it stands, the First Nation received enough land for 213 members, even though its population count is 207. Based on the record, we cannot recommend that this claim be accepted for negotiation."

In 1982, the Sandy Bay Ojibway First Nation submitted a TLE claim that was rejected by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development in 1985. In 1998, the Sandy Bay First Nation requested that the ICC conduct an inquiry into its TLE claim; however, Canada objected to the scope of the inquiry, arguing that it had not been asked to consider all the issues presented to the ICC. The panel ruled that the inquiry could proceed, but that Canada would be given time to consider any new matters. A TLE working group was organized and facilitated by the Commission to assist the parties in sorting out the population count, but it could not agree on a final figure.

The ICC was established in 1991. Its mandate is: to inquire, at the request of a First Nation, into specific claims that have been rejected by the federal government, or accepted claims where the First Nation disputes the compensation criteria being considered; and to provide mediation services on consent of the parties at any stage of the claims process.

A copy of this news release, as well as the report, is available upon request. It can also be found on the Indian Claims Commission web site at www.indianclaims.ca.


BACKGROUNDER

The Sandy Bay Ojibway First Nation, formerly the White Mud River Band, makes its home on the southwest shore of Lake Manitoba. It was originally part of the Portage Band that signed Treaty 1 in 1871.

In 1872, the Chief of the Sandy Bay First Nation wrote to the Indian Commissioner, requesting that a reserve be surveyed for his band, which was distinct from the Portage Band.

In June 1876, the Portage Band was recognized as three separate bands: Long Plain, Yellow Quill and Sandy Bay, and Treaty 1 was revised to address the "outside promises" for farming implements and instruction which First Nations had understood would be part of the treaty. Each of the three bands was to receive a reserve as well as a proportional share of the original Portage reserve, which had not yet been surveyed but was originally intended for all three bands.

In July 1876, a surveyor was sent to record all the band members who had already settled on lands in the area envisioned for the reserve. Before Treaties 1 and 2 were negotiated, many First Nation people had settled on and improved lands. Treaty 1 stipulated that lands which were improved prior to entering into treaty and which were subsequently included within reserve boundaries should not be counted as part of the First Nation's treaty land entitlement. In the case of Sandy Bay, the surveyor found five band members had farms or houses in the area. The holdings of two of the five were located within the boundaries of the eventual reserve.

The surveyor reported that it was the unanimous wish of the entire Band to settle on the western shore of Lake Manitoba. He noted that the lands requested by the First Nation contained abundant hay, would be sufficient for cultivation and that the First Nation would have access to plenty of fish and game. He further noted that Sandy Bay was entitled to 11,211 acres for 183 members; however, the paylist for that year shows that 188 people were paid treaty annuities.

The surveyor recommended that the whole of township 18, range 9, comprising 12,102 acres, be set aside, since there was a large section of marshland near the lake shore. His recommendation was followed; however, the reserve was not confirmed until 1913 because the federal government was unsure if the Hudson's Bay Company had any rights to the lands.

In September 1880, Sandy Bay members began to complain about flooding of their lands, writing that they had "reaped little or no benefit from (their) crops" and that they believed they would be unable to sow at all the next spring. This flooding persisted until 1884, and caused many members of the First Nation to withdraw from the treaty, though most were later readmitted.

In November 1913, the reserve was confirmed as Sandy Bay Indian Reserve (IR) 5 by Order in Council 2876.

Reports beginning in 1928 indicate that officials at the Department of Indian Affairs were concerned that the quality of the lands set aside for the Sandy Bay First Nation were inadequate. It was suggested that the First Nation members would never be able to make a living off the land set aside for them, and that the reserve should be abandoned. Although there were proposals among government officials to amalgamate the band with the other Portage Bands, to move the boundaries of the reserve or to relocate the First Nation to a reserve with more arable lands, the record does not indicate that any action was taken.

In 1923, questions arose regarding the eastern boundary of IR 5, which bordered the shore of Lake Manitoba. The Department of Indian Affairs maintained that the boundary was the marshland which preceded the lake, while the First Nation believed that the shore line was the boundary. To clarify the issue, 3,840 acres of marshland were added to IR 5 in May 1930.

In 1982, the Sandy Bay First Nation submitted a treaty land entitlement (TLE) claim, which was rejected by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development in 1985. In 1991, following further research analyzing paylists, Canada again advised the First Nation that there was no outstanding treaty land entitlement. In 1998, the Sandy Bay First Nation requested that the Indian Claims Commission conduct an inquiry.

After the First Nation presented its issues, Canada objected to the scope of the inquiry, arguing that all of the issues had not been previously considered. The panel ruled in June 1999 that it would proceed with an inquiry into the issues presented by Sandy Bay, and that Canada would be given a reasonable amount of time to consider any new matters.

Further research was undertaken to clarify the issues surrounding the TLE claim. A series of events outside of the inquiry process occurred, affecting both the First Nation and Canada's participation in the inquiry, delaying the progress of the inquiry.

At a planning conference in September 2004, the parties agreed to proceed directly to the written and oral submissions of the inquiry, without holding a community session. However, the parties were unable to reach agreement on the statement of issues. Canada proposed a two-phased inquiry process, with which the First Nation did not agree. In addition, the Long Plain First Nation sought standing to intervene in the Sandy Bay inquiry with respect to 17 people claimed as members by both First Nations. After receiving written submissions from the parties, the panel ruled that the inquiry would be conducted in a single phase, granted the Long Plain First Nation standing to seek intervention, and finalized the issues.

Contact Information

  • Indian Claims Commission
    Manon Garrett
    Communications Officer
    613-947-3939