Media Release: Historic ruling awards $4.5M to Beardy’s & Okemasis First Nation for withheld Treaty Annuity payments
For Immediate Release
December 27, 2016
– With files from the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations and Maurice Law.
Beardy’s & Okemasis First Nation, Treaty 6 – The Beardy’s & Okemasis First Nation has successfully defended Treaty rights in Saskatchewan. In a decision on Friday, December 23, the Specific Claims Tribunal ordered the federal government to pay $4.5 million for $4,250 in treaty money illegally withheld by the Crown from members of the bands from 1885 to 1888 in what is now considered a breach of the Crown’s Treaty obligations to members of the Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation.
“We have waited 130 years for this outstanding Treaty rights claim to be honoured and settled,” said Chief Rick Gamble of the Beardy’s & Okemasis First Nation. “This is a great day for the people of Beardy’s & Okemasis, and a great victory for Treaty rights in Saskatchewan!”
In the aftermath of the 1885 Riel Resistance, the government identified 14 First Nations for their alleged participation in the resistance. As punishment, the government withheld annuities from all band members who were labelled “rebel Indians” – including every man, woman, and child, some of whom could not have possibly participated in any way in the resistance.
The government also confiscated guns, ammunition, horses, cattle, carts, wagons, harnesses, and Treaty medals from these First Nations while strictly enforcing the pass system, a punitive measure which severely restricted members from leaving their reserves without permission. In addition, the government did not allow the Beardy’s & Okemasis First Nation to have a Chief and Council until 1936.
“The specific claim by the Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation is about the implementation and the protection of treaty promises that were made when Chief Beardy entered into treaty,” said FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron. “The Tribunal’s decision will set a precedent for the other First Nations who experienced similar treatment and have specific claims with the government.”
Canada also withheld Treaty payments from 14 other First Nations that include: Chakastaypasin, Little Pine, Lucky Man, Moosomin, Mosquito/Grizzly Bear’s Head/Lean Man, Muskeg Lake, One Arrow, Onion Lake, Poundmaker, Red Pheasant, Sweetgrass, Thunderchild, Young Chipewayan.
The timing of the decision offers First Nations across the country new hope for reconciliation as the Government of Canada has committed to expediting the resolution of specific claims in the future.
“This decision should also pave the way for the prompt settlement of similar claims brought by the other so-called “disloyal” First Nations. I’m hopeful that the Minister of Indigenous Affairs, Dr. Carolyn Bennett and her government, do the right thing and settle these long-standing claims in a fair and honourable manner.” concluded Chief Gamble.
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For more information, please contact:
Chief & Council Communications
Ron S. Maurice – Maurice Law Barristers & Solicitors
Mervin Brass – Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations
Phone: 306.665.1215 | Mobile: 306.370.1689