Leadership say voter apathy threatens its financial future
- Kerry Benjoe | May 18, 2023
Over the weekend the members of Muscowpetung Saulteaux Nation voted on its 1909 land claim and instead of celebrating, the leadership were still trying to figure out what went wrong.
“We were only 20 votes away from meeting the requirement to pass, which is disappointing,” said Chief Melissa Tavita in a news release.
Saturday’s vote failed to meet the double majority threshold of 50 per cent plus one of the eligible voters casting a vote. Of the eligible voters who cast a vote, an overwhelming number of voters approved the Settlement Agreement with 99.7 per cent.
This gives the leadership hope that all is not lost.
If passed the First Nation will receive a $150-million settlement. It would also mean the members will each receive $40,000 making it the most significant per capita payout issued in Saskatchewan.
It has taken the leadership decades to finally reach a settlement with the federal government.
Chief Tavita remembered her mother, the late Vivian Anaquod, who was a long-time Muscowpetung councilor, talk about the 1909 Land Surrender Claim and the prosperity it would bring to the Nation.
Work and research by Muscowpetung members and leadership started in the 1950s, however the First Nation didn’t have the financial means to file the claim until February 23, 1994.
Many of those who started the work have passed away, which is why Tavita is determined to finish what they started.
The oral history of the questionable land surrender has been passed down through the generations and has been confirmed through historical documents from that time.
A meeting was called on a winter day when temperatures dipped to -52C and with no evidence there was a majority of the Band in attendance, the Canadian Government relied on ten men to justify the surrender of prime agricultural land. Virtually overnight, Muscowpetung’s agricultural development and economy was destroyed.
The research for the claim showed Canada breached its statutory, fiduciary, and honourable obligations in accepting and approving the shortsighted, and exploitative surrender.
Tavita said the stories from that time are still shared and many know how unjust the people of Muscowpetung were treated.
Prior to the May 13, voter the leadership held information sessions and advanced-polling stations in Regina, Saskatoon, Vancouver and Calgary as well as an online voting option for members.
It wasn’t enough to drive up voter enthusiasm but all hope is not lost
“Because we had 99.7% that agreed to the Claim, we are eligible for a second vote,” said Councillor Rhonda Rosebluff. “This time we want to pass the 50 per cent threshold. We want people to show up and be proud of what this money will bring to the Nation, our people, and our programs and services.”
The Chief and Council are currently in talks with their lawyers to set up new information dates and polling stations—more information to follow on polling stations on the Muscowpetung Saulteaux Nation’s Facebook page.