By Jake Cardinal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – On June 2, 2022 Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined Siksika Chief, Ouray Crowfoot, for a ceremony honouring the signing of a $1.3 billion decades-old land claim settlement.
The 1910 surrender claim settlement — which is one of the largest agreements of its kind reached in Canada — aims to correct a historical injustice: when Canada broke its Treaty 7 promise to the Blackfoot Nation and wrongfully took almost half of Siksika’s reserve land.
The country took approximately 115,000 acres from the reserve — including some of the most productive agricultural and mineral-rich lands — to sell to settlers.
According to the office of the Prime Minister, the settlement awarded the Nation financial compensation from the federal government to resolve several outstanding land claims and their related litigation; such as, longstanding claims related to the Bow River Irrigation District, the Canadian Pacific Railway Claim, and other land-based historical grievances.
Additionally, under the settlement, Siksika can acquire over time up to 115,000 acres of land to add to their reserve land base on a willing-seller/willing-buyer basis.
“Today, we right a past wrong committed by the Government of Canada. This agreement is the culmination of over 60 years of relentless advocacy and leadership by Siksika Nation, whose people have fought to right this historic wrong,” said Trudeau.
“It is also an opportunity to look forward as we build a better future together – one that is based on nation-to-nation dialogue, partnership, and respect,” he concluded.
The 1910 land claim is one of the many settlements the government of Canada has reached with First Nations across the country.
To date, Canada has settled over 590 specific claims through negotiated settlements with First Nations across the country. This includes over 180 claims settled through negotiations since 2016.
Chief Crowfoot said of the settlement, “Settling this case, which dates back to 1910, is long overdue for the People of Siksika Nation.”
“I want to make that clear: Canada is not giving $1.3 billion to Siksika. Canada is righting a wrong committed over a century ago when Canada illegally took 115,000 acres of lands provided to Siksika along with other illegal acts,” he said.
“Now that this case has been settled, the compensation from the settlement can assist Siksika to develop true financial sovereignty and provide more opportunities for our People.”
The settlement is definitely a hard-fought victory for the Nation, as the land claim was initially filed by in 1960 — over 60 years ago.
However, it wasn’t until 2008 that negotiators initiated a settlement. Then, 61 years after the original file, the Nation approved the settlement with a community vote in December 2021.
“This case was filed in 1960 under Chief Clarence McHugh and many leaderships and technicians have worked tirelessly over several decades to see this day come to fruition,” said Crowfoot.
“I want to take the time to share my gratitude for the leaders that came before us and other ancestors who help build the foundation we stand upon today,” he concluded.