Historic agreement sets groundwork to open treaty negotiations
- NC Raine | January 23, 2018
Whitecap Dakota First Nation and the federal government of Canada have signed the framework to a historic agreement grounded in reconciliation.
Signed at Whitecap Dakota First Nation on Monday, the agreement commits to exploratory discussions identifying ways to achieve meaningful and lasting reconciliation. According to the federal government, Whitecap was present at Treaty 4 and Treaty 6 discussions in 1870, but was not invited to sign those treaties. The framework agreement signed Monday will seek to find common ground among the two parties to work towards treaty negotiations.
“We know that this is the first step forward in self-determination, which is really a part of this journey to reconciliation,” said Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs.
“This about the social, cultural, and economic sustainability,” she said.
The negotiations are should result in a more streamlined approach, explained Bennett, in which a term-sheet containing Whitecap's appeals will be presented to cabinet, who can then provide a mandate to get the First Nation what it needs.
“In what the Prime Minister calls 'recognition of rights, respect, cooperation, and partnership', this is the way that partners deal with one another, as opposed to the rather titled power differential that existed for far too long,” said Bennett.
A key element of the framework agreement going forward will be the means to formally recognize the relationship between Whitecap and the Crown, and acknowledging the significant contributions made by the Dakota in founding and developing the country.
“We want to take our rightful place and be a part of the economy,” said Darcy Bear, Chief of Whitecap Dakota First Nation. “You look at Whitecap, there is still so much need here...(including) economic development and creating a sustainable community so we're not reliant on government resources.”
As a result of being left out of treaty negotiations, Whitecap Dakota received only 16 acres of land, opposed to those belonging to treaty first nations, who received 128 acres. Bear said he'd like to expedite treaty negotiations in order for Whitecap to be more sustainable, and expand it's land base.
“What we're looking for out of this (...) certainly the benefits of the number of treaties, additional land base for Whitecap,” he said.
Bear also said would like to see the treaty result in capital resources for investment in the community, and resources for language and culture programming in Whitecap.
“When we get the capacity, we prove that we can be successful,” said Bear. “I think we set a precedent for other First Nations to follow, and if more First Nations can emulate what's happening here, we'll have a strong Canada.”
The agreement states both parties will develop a negotiation mandate within 180 days. A forthcoming treaty would be the first treaty signed in Saskatchewan since the early 20th century.