By Jeremy Appel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – The Siksika Nation has voted to accept a one-time $1.3-billion payment as resolution to a wrongful surrender claim from more than 100 years ago — one of the longest running land claims in Canadian history.
With a 70 per cent turnout at polls on Dec. 16 and 17 on Siksika reseve and in Calgary, as well as mail-in ballots from those who couldn’t vote in person, 77 per cent voted in favour of the settlement, according to a news release from Siksika Nation.
In addition to the compensation, there is an option for band members to apply for up to 115,000 acres of land purchased by the nation to be added to the reserve from anywhere in Alberta.
Siksika Nation Chief Ouray Crowfoot expressed satisfaction with turnout, but acknowledged that it was a difficult decision for band members to make.
“This settlement is not reconciliation. We will never be restored to the same as before these breaches took place. We lost almost half of our landbase and access to ceremonial sites and our connection to the land,” said Crowfoot.
“One thing the settlement can provide is opportunities. Financial opportunities that can open many doors for our people and be a move towards financial sovereignty. Opportunities that can help remove barriers, build capacity and provide services to help better the standard of life for all our People.”
Siksika’s 1910 land surrender to the Crown was based on a fraudulent vote, with many of the yes votes coming from people who had died or were underage, Crowfoot told CBC News.
The agreement also covers the confiscation of land to build the Canadian Pacific Railway, flooding and release of sewage onto reserve without the nation’s approval, and the illegal seizure of about 500 acres of reserve for the Bow River Irrigation Project.
“This is a case of basically righting a wrong that should’ve never happened,” Crowfoot told the CBC.
He dated efforts to redress this wrong to the 1960s.
Siksika Nation and the federal government have been in negotiations since 2016.
“There’s been a lot of chiefs, a lot of council, a lot of technicians that put in a lot of work over six decades,” said Crowfoot.
The nation intends on using the funds to establish a trust to ensure its future financial independence, he added.
Crowfoot said the investments made with the trust funds will also benefit people outside the nation’s membership, with infrastructure and construction jobs attracting people from off reserve.
“This is not just a win just for Siksika, this is a win for all of southern Alberta,” he said.