Indian Claims Commission

Indian Claims Commission

May 20, 2005 11:01 ET

Ottawa Should Negotiate With Two Saskatchewan Indian Bands Over Compensation For Thousands Of Acres, Says The ICC

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - May 20, 2005) - The Indian Claims Commission (ICC) recommends that the federal government negotiate with two Saskatchewan Indian bands for the improper removal of nearly 60,000 acres from their use.

In a process that was unique in the history of the ICC, the proceedings commenced concurrently through the four separate, but related, claims submitted by the James Smith Cree Nation and the Cumberland House Cree Nation involving Indian Reserves (IR) 98, 100 and 100A.

The claims are the result of the actions and procedures taken by federal government officials following the 1885 Northwest Rebellion, including the dispersal of the entire Chakastaypasin Band from IR 98 on the banks of the South Saskatchewan River, south of Prince Albert.

Three of the claims were submitted by the James Smith Cree Nation in the spring of 1999. The following winter a fourth claim for some of the same land was received from the Cumberland House Cree Nation. Because much of the history and circumstances were very similar it was decided to conduct the inquiries separately but in tandem.

"There were a number of unique circumstances surrounding these claims," said Chief Commissioner Renee Dupuis who chaired the panel. "This was the first time we had two bands bringing claims for the same piece of land. In another case, the claim was submitted on behalf of a band that, officially no longer exists."

Commissioner Alan Holman was the second member of the ICC panel that looked into the claims. "This was a complex inquiry, with over-lapping interests, and involving two treaty areas," he said. "We heard submissions from nine different bands, and though five years is a long period, we needed that time to ensure everyone was heard."

Some aspects of the claims flowed from the processes that resulted from the signing of Treaty 5 and Treaty 6 in the mid-1870s and the subsequent allocation of reserve lands, while other aspects involved the circumstances in surrenders later taken for some of that same land.

Seven other bands, though not directly involved in these claims, had information on, and interests in, the dispersal of members of the Chakastaypasin Band to their reserves. The panel heard from them in a special day-long session, as well in written arguments from their legal counsel.

The lands in question were, at the time, part of the Northwest Territories, the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta had not yet been created.

Though communications were slow and the bureaucracy small and far removed, there were processes and procedures set out, both by the treaties and under the Indian Act that were not followed or adhered to. It is these breaches that led the panel to the conclusions it made in the four reports that were released today.

The three matters brought by the James Smith Cree Nation involved claims surrounding the surrenders of IR 98 and IR 100A and a treaty land entitlement claim based on the amalgamation of the James Smith Band and a group termed 'the Peter Chapman Band', living at IR 100A.

In examining the James Smith Cree Nation's claim concerning the surrender and disposal of IR 98 the panel found that while members of the Chakastaypasin Band were dispersed following the 1885 Northwest Rebellion, there were no valid transfers of Chakastaypasin members into the Cumberland House Band at IR 100A.

Nor was the panel satisfied that Canada's reliance on the nine signatories of Chakastaypasin members at IR 100A provided consent for the whole of the Chakastaypasin Band. The panel recommends that the James Smith Cree Nation's Chakastaypasin Indian Reserve 98 claim be accepted for negotiation under Canada's Specific Claims Policy.

Among the things the panel was asked to look into in the James Smith Cree Nation's claim concerning IR 100A were Canada's obligations in the 1902 surrender and sale of the reserve land. The panel found that there was a breach of Canada's obligations in these matters, but the obligations are owed to the Cumberland House Cree Nation.

In the matter of the amalgamation of the people at IR 100A, termed the 'Peter Chapman Band', with the James Smith Band, the panel determined there was no separate 'Peter Chapman Band', but there were members of Cumberland House living at IR 100A on land set aside for the Cumberland House Band. As the consent of the whole of the Cumberland House Band, residing at both IR 20 and IR 100A, was neither sought nor obtained, the panel concluded the amalgamation was invalid.

The Cumberland House Cree Nation IR 100A inquiry also involved questions about the 'Peter Chapman Band' and issues concerning its loss of interest in IR 100A. The panel found that IR 20 and IR 100A were created for the Cumberland House Band under Treaty 5 and that Canada had an obligation to protect the Band's interest in IR 100A which it failed to do.

The panel recommends the Cumberland House Cree Nation's claim be accepted for negotiation under Canada's Specific Claim Policy.

The Indian Claims Commission was established in 1991 to examine, at the request of a First Nation, specific land claims rejected by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. The Commission also provides mediation services, at any stage in negotiations, to help First Nations and the government settle specific land claims.

A copy of this news release and the report, are available on request. They can also be found on the Indian Claims Commission web site at http://www.indianclaims.ca

Contact Information

  • Indian Claims Commission
    Lucian Blair
    Director of Communications
    (613) 943-1607