Celebration marks 25 years since Canada's largest land claim
- NC Raine | October 20, 2017
Indigenous, government, and community leaders gathered in Saskatoon Thursday to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the largest treaty based land claim in Canadian history, the Saskatchewan Treaty Land Entitlement (TLE) Agreement.
On September 22, 1992, Saskatchewan First Nations and the provincial and federal governments signed the TLE Agreement, resulting in over 860,000 acres of new reserve lands, including over fifty urban reserves. The agreement started a new era of opportunity for 25 Saskatchewan First Nations, establishing a procedure in which First Nations are able to buy Crown land, with the mineral rights, structures, and buildings associated with the respective land.
Since the agreement, eight more First Nations have been added to the treaty.
“I think we've accomplished a lump of benefits not only for First Nations but for the province and Canada in the cooperation that occurred,” said Guy Duperrault, former Justice Canada Legal Counsel. “This is a blueprint for the future.”
The resulting impacts from the TLE have been extensive. Prior to 1992, there were only two urban reserves in the province. Now, there are over fifty, with another fifty in the reserve creation system. With First Nations no longer being isolated from economic centres in Canada, TLE allowed many Saskatchewan First Nations to create a wealth of jobs and opportunity, causing the federal government to revise its national Addictions to Reserves Policy to apply to all First Nations in Canada.
“We wanted to give back to our communities,” said Chief Michael Starr of Star Blanket First Nation. Located in the town of Fort Qu'Appelle, Star Blanket First Nation was the first urban reserve under the 1992 TLE agreement.
“The (treaty negotiations) leads to good nation building governance, for our nation as well,” said Chief Starr. “We made sure we had guidance from the spiritual perspective, and we will continue to do that today.”
In Saskatchewan, four of five casinos run by the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority sit on First Nation land. Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) Chief Bobby Cameron highlighted organizations like SIGA, which has thrived since the agreement.
“The SIGA casinos are all on First Nation land - opportunity for development, to contribute, to be part of the economy,” said Chief Cameron.
To date, the total value of all the TLE settlements is over $590 million dollars. The TLE First Nations currently have a total of 1.4 million acres, including acres which can be transferred to reserve.