By Jake Cardinal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – On April 6, 2022 the Government of Canada announced that it had reached a settlement agreement for the Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation Treaty Land Entitlement Claim.
“Righting this historical wrong is key to renewing Canada’s relationship with the Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation,” said Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Marc Miller.
“We recognize the harms caused to the Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation and are committed to addressing them through concrete actions, for the development of the community – and all future generations…”
The Ahtahkakoop First Nation is a Cree First Nation band government near Shell Lake, Saskatchewan. It is located 72 kilometres northwest of Prince Albert.
Ahtahkakoop adhered to Treaty 6 in 1876, which promised one square mile per family of five, or 128 acres per person. In 1878, a federal Order in Council set apart 42,988.8 acres of land as reserve for the First Nation, enough for 336 people.
Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation asserts that the total eligible membership was 368 individuals, resulting with a Treaty land entitlement shortfall of 4,115.2 acres.
Treaty Land Entitlement claims are intended to remedy historic allegations where First Nations received insufficient reserve land promised to them under Treaty.
Thus the Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation will receive compensation of $43.3 million, with Canada providing $30.7 million and the Government of Saskatchewan providing the remaining $12.6 million.
Minister Responsible for First Nations, Métis and Northern Affairs Don McMorris said of the agreement, “The Government of Saskatchewan is pleased to have reached a successful outcome in partnership with Canada and the Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation.”
“This settlement demonstrates the Government of Saskatchewan’s commitment to reconciliation, and provides for Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation with opportunities to invest in land, economic development, and community enhancement.”
“These projects will benefit not only Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation, but all of Saskatchewan,” he concluded.
Furthermore, as part of the agreement, the Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation has the option to acquire up to 40,659.97 acres to add to their reserve lands.
Canada and Saskatchewan will also set aside $6.7 million as compensation to rural municipalities and school divisions once taxable land is set apart as reserve.
The settlement is a long-awaited win for the Nation as the claim was initially filed in July 2001 and accepted for negotiations nearly a decade later in May 2010.
Then in October 2021 the First Nation approved the settlement in a community vote, with 97 per cent of those who voted voting in favour.
“Thinking of our future generations, this settlement will provide for hunting and trapping lands, cultural and ceremonial lands, as well as additional lands for our members to benefit from,” said Ahtahkokoop Nation Chief Larry Ahenakew.
“In the not too distant future, this settlement will also provide for our members, economic development opportunities and create much needed employment on Ahtahkakoop owned commercial and urban lands.”
“This has been a very lengthy process and Ahtahkakoop is pleased that this historic Treaty Land Entitlement Claim has finally been settled,” said Chief Ahenakew.