Chiefs from the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) spoke on Tuesday, August 29, 2023 in Saskatoon, when the FSIN announced the organization was suing the provincial and federal governments over alleged treaty breaches.KIMIYA SHOKOOHI / SASKATOON STARPHEONIX

Leaders from First Nations communities across the Canadian Prairies stood in unison on Tuesday, announcing plans to pursue legal action against provincial and federal governments for allegedly breaching treaty agreements.

“They held my hand and said, ‘You’re my friend,’ ” Sweetgrass First Nation Chief Lorie Whitecalf said at a Tuesday news conference in Saskatoon. “As soon as the pipes were turned on, they forgot my name.”

Gathering under a large wooden teepee outside the offices of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) — with the support of chiefs from Saskatchewan and Alberta — expressed frustrations that have led to this point.

Leaders said they feel that agreements — including the 1930 Natural Resources Transfer Agreement and Treaty Land Entitlement Framework — are being ignored.

“What we are saying is our treaties are of international law. They trump federal and province laws,” FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron said.

“This is our basis. They failed in their duty to consult … This statement of claim has been a long time coming — many, many decades to get to this point.”

Each chief shared stories of frustration and disappointment with provincial and federal leaders surrounding breaches to treaties, some of which were signed before several provinces became legally ratified.

The chiefs and leaders collectively called on governments to recognize promises that were made to First Nations people that have since fallen by the wayside, affecting their communities and putting them in dire straits.

Others cautioned that potential investors looking to Saskatchewan for business and natural resources to stay clear while the lawsuit is impending. Several of the chiefs said First Nations have not received agreed-to shares of profits from natural resources, as provinces and private businesses have reaped benefits in the trillions.

“There is no reason for us to be beggars in our own lands,” said Chief Kelsey Jacko of Cold Lake First Nations in Alberta.

“We talk about equalization payments when my people are in poverty right across Turtle Island, and there’s no need for that.”

They spoke of the suffering of the First Nations people. While there are prominent Indigenous members of the community in Saskatoon, others are seen daily gathering on the streets outside charity organizations.

“Surrender: there’s no word for that in our languages. We agreed to share,” Jacko said. “Christopher Columbus didn’t find us. We found him, and we helped him out.”

By Kimiya Shokoohi, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Aug 29, 2023 at 21:11

This item reprinted with permission from   The StarPhoenix   Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
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