Sask. First Nation to vote on $150M compensation package
REGINA -- A Saskatchewan First Nation has reached a settlement with the Government of Canada for a land claim that has been in the works for more than 35 years.
Membership of Peepeekisis Cree Nation, once the site of the File Hills Colony, are tasked with ratifying the settlement of $150 million for the File Hills Colony Specific Claim, formally offered to the Nation on Nov. 6.
Members will vote either for or against the settlement on Dec. 11 at Peepeekisis or via mail-in ballot.
“The claim involves compensation for the mismanagement by Canada of Peepeekisis reserve lands,” the First Nation said in a news release. “This Settlement Agreement will allow the Nation to make significant community investments.”
In addition to monetary compensation, the settlement offer includes the creation of a community trust for the management of the settlement funds, the ability for Peepeekisis to acquire additional lands and a formal statement of Reconciliation.
The news release said that the Nation’s leadership agrees that the offer is fair and reasonable, and encourages community members to ratify the agreement on Dec. 11.
“Former Chief Enock Poitras at the time actually submitted this claim in 1986,” said Frank Deiter, chief of Peepeekisis Cree Nation. “It got shot down twice by the Federal Government and twice by the courts.”
The band restarted the legal process in 2017. On Friday, November 6, the Cree Nation received a $150 million settlement letter of offer from the Government of Canada.
Summer Stonechild lives on the reserve. She said there are differing opinions on the claim, but everyone is remaining optimistic.
“We really don’t know the outcome of where this land claim is going to go, but we all have the best interest of our children in mind,” said Stonechild.
If the claim moves forward, Stonechild said a lot of work will need to be done to determine how to best use the settlement dollars. She said she hopes some will go towards economic development and infrastructure, a museum on the community’s history, and social services for members.
“We have to be prepared for the socio-economic impacts that may be prevalent after. We have high addictions rates, mental health issues and whatnot,” she said. “So, it’d be nice if we had those things in place moving into this, because some people may not have the capacity to handle a big payout.”
To ratify the claim compensation package, Deiter said 500 members will need to send in their votes by Dec. 11, with 295 ‘yes’ votes to move the claim forward.
The File Hills Colony was a planned Christian community created by Indian Affairs inspector William Morris Graham in 1898, on Peepeekisis reserve land.
According to ‘File Hills Colony: A Failed Experiment’ the most promising Indigenous graduates of the industrial schools were brought to the colony.
The boys could then choose an 80-acre farm in the colony, to work under the supervision of the government farm inspector. The girls were taught to be farmwives or housekeepers.
The colony closed in the mid-1930s. Starting in 1945, band members began to challenge the fact that industrial school graduates from other reserves had been transferred land from original Peepeekisis Cree Nation members.