Prime Minister Trudeau signs historic land claim agreement with the Siksika Nation


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A historic $1.3 billion land claim agreement signed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Siksika chief and council on Thursday represents hope and an opportunity to look forward, First Nation members say.

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Trudeau, along with Crown Minister for Indigenous Relations Marc Miller, officially signed the agreement along with Chief Ouray Crowfoot. Under the agreement, the Siksika Nation will receive $1.3 billion in compensation for the wrongful handing over of land, and will eventually be able to acquire 46,500 hectares of land from surrounding areas. The two parties met at Treaty Plains, where the original Treaty 7 was signed between members of the Crown and various First Nations in 1877.

“I understand that we still have a lot of work to do on the road to reconciliation,” Trudeau said. “But today, without forgetting the past, we have the opportunity to look to the future and how warmly we have been received today. For more than 60 years, with relentless advocacy and leadership, his community has fought to right an egregious wrong to get the result he deserves.”

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with some Siksika elders after signing a land deal with the Siksika Nioksskaistamik (Chief) Ouray Crowfoot Nation at the Treaty Flats Historic Site on Thursday, June 2, 2022.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with some Siksika elders after signing a land deal with the Siksika Nioksskaistamik (Chief) Ouray Crowfoot Nation at the Treaty Flats Historic Site on Thursday, June 2, 2022. Photo by Azin Ghaffari /post media

The land claim was first brought in court in 1960 by the Siksika Nation. The settlement addresses longstanding claims related to the Bow River Irrigation District, the Canadian Pacific Railway claim, and other historic torts. Trudeau said that during 1910 and the years that followed, the government seized land from the nation through deceitful and dishonorable means.

Chief Crowfoot said full reconciliation will never be possible and the mistakes of the past can never be undone once again, but said the signing of the deal will allow both sides to move forward and provide an opportunity for Siksika to invest in its future.

“This land claim, yes, $1.3 billion is a lot of money,” Crowfoot said. “You will never get back what it was before, but you have to move on. What the $1.3 billion can do is provide opportunities, opportunities that we didn’t have before, some of those economic opportunities that the prime minister mentioned earlier.”

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Siksika Nioksskaistamik Nation (Chief) Ouray Crowfoot sign a land deal at the Treaty Flats Historic Site on Thursday, June 2, 2022.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Siksika Nioksskaistamik Nation (Chief) Ouray Crowfoot sign a land deal at the Treaty Flats Historic Site on Thursday, June 2, 2022. Photo by Azin Ghaffari /post media

Crowfoot said the deal is a piece of a puzzle that will help the nation.

The two parties began exploratory talks to resolve the claim out of court. Last December, 77 percent of the nation’s members who voted said Yes to the terms of the deal, opening the way for both sides to sign the deal.

Lucille Wright said she voted No on the settlement because she did not agree that it was a blanket settlement dealing with multiple claims, saying that the original 1910 Surrender Claim alone is worth $8 billion. However, she said that regardless of how she voted, she still sees Thursday as a sign of hope for the future.

“I hope that our people, you know, in the future we think about investments, we invest in our future,” Wright said. “We have an outstanding leader. He didn’t give up on us, but he adapted to the changes that happened.”

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Mona Royal said she voted Yes on the deal and did so with her children and grandchildren in mind. She said that she hopes that the money the nation receives is invested in the community.

“It’s not 100 percent good enough, but it’s something both sides agreed on,” Royal said. “I want people to invest in the real problems of the nation. I want people to invest in a detox center, a dialysis machine, community centers; there are many things this money can do to help our people.”

Speaking after the ceremony, Crowfoot said the $1.3 billion is a bargain for the land and resources that were taken from Siksika. He said the work to invest in that money will begin as soon as possible and he wants it to be used to ensure that members of the nation have the same access to services as others in Alberta.

Crowfoot said he wants Siksika to have its own watchdog and for the nation to support residential school survivors and improve mental health services. He also wants to help people with disabilities.

“It is those kinds of inequities that we seek to rectify. We’re not looking for anything more than equal treatment, which any other Albertan, any other Canadian would get anywhere else,” Crowfoot said.

He said he believes the money will also go to help surrounding communities and, in turn, help the rest of the province and the rest of the country.

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Reference-calgaryherald.com

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