The Starblanket Cree Nation and the First Nations University of Canada hosted a historic signing ceremony Wednesday to create the first urban reserve land dedicated to education

The signing is a first for the country and took almost 20 years to develop,

“It is a sense of accomplishment for all our people,” said Chief Michael Starr of Starblanket Cree Nation.

“Connecting the treaty right to education right now is part of it and its always been here and I can’t say that enough.”

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said: “When you talk about reconciliation and peace and nation building. This is all part of it and it comes back to Treaty.”

“Today is a very powerful symbol of progress and achievement and it’s a day to celebrate. It’s also a day to remind ourselves there is a lot more work to be done,” Regina-Wascana MP Ralph Goodale said.

The urban reserve land is now named atim ka-mihkosit which is Cree for Red Dog, Starblanket’s last hereditary chief. Chief Red Dog’s head dress was also part of the ceremony and stood in front of the audience beside the signing table. Starr said Chief Red Dog’s father signed Treaty 4 in 1874 with the Crown. Chief Starr says this day is about fulfilling their vision.

“Their vision, their knowledge, their understanding from the Creator, through the pipe, they believed in education. They wanted it so much for our people even though they didn’t see yet, what was about to happen but through perseverance and resilience, they helped us so much and they are still a part of us.”

Chief Starr said the urban reserve land will help increase economic development in the area and he dreams of having an Indigenous student residence being built right beside the First Nations University.

FNUC President Mark Dockstator said this is the first time the treaty right to education and land has come together in a First Nations-based educational facility.

“It is historic. I think it was historic 40 years ago when the First Nations University of Canada was created. I think this is another milestone along this journey of us leading the way.”

Dockstator said there was always intent to have the university on reserve land. The process took many years involving many levels of government, leadership and stakeholders.

“It was always the vision of those leaders and community people who were involved in this process and say, ‘It should be on reserve land.’ That formal process was taken up in 2002 and it took that long to get to this point.”

Lawrence Bigknife is one of the few remaining Starblanket Treaty Land Entitlement Trustees who have worked on this file since the beginning.

“It really made me feel proud to be a part of the negotiating, along with my brother-in-law, Clifford Starr who is the chairman of the TLE board,” he said.

Starr said future developments on the land are planned and he calls on all levels of government to work together with the university and Starblanket and keep in mind future generations.

“Our land base will grow and flourish because our nations will get stronger and help one another in a good way.”