- Oral History
- Land Base issues
- Elder’s Perspective
- Treaty Land Entitlement
Swan Lake First Nation: Treaty One 1871
The late Chief Roy McKinney hired me to work on the Swan Lake First Nation Treaty Land Entitlement claim in 1983 to carry out Treaty Research. The claim itself had already been stared long before I can along and was in the office of the Indian Claims Commission at the Ottawa level. The experience required many hours of reading and studying historical documents from several sources.
- National Archives – Ottawa
- United Church Archives – Toronto/University of Winnipeg
- University of Regina – Saskatchewan
- Alberta Archives – Edmonton
- Manitoba Archives – University of Manitoba
- Law Library – University of Manitoba
- Catholic Archdiocese – Ste. Boniface
- Oral History – Elders
- Consultation – Treaty Researchers
- Calgary Library – Alberta
- History Books
The Chief and Council and Ottawa finally signed the claim in 1995-6 and Swan Lake got their settlement. Throughout the research part of the claim, I was fortunate to work alongside Manitoba Chiefs and Councils from Treaty One, Treaty groups and other organizations that were involved quite extensively in Treaties.
I was part of the negotiating team for the TLE and worked as on of the technicians. As a technician, I was responsible for having all relevant documents on hand, schedule of meeting, minutes and monitoring progress, communications with on-off Reserve band members. I was also responsible to consult with neighbouring non-native communities in the area on the land settlement. When word got out, many of our neighbours assumed that our band was coming to expropriate their farmlands; we therefore, had to deal with the situation.
Around 1983-7, I worked with the Portage Bands made up of Sandy Bay, Swan Lake and Long Plain bands. The mandate was mainly enhancing mutual Treaty claims and protection of Indian Rights. The organization carried out research on outstanding Treaty matters relative to the three bands. As a result, it was found that we had several claims that remain unsettled and are still outstanding.
An attempt was made to underwrite some of these outstanding Comprehensive Claims and roll them forward under the work being done in the Treaty Land Entitlement (TLE) process. We found some of the information overlapped and all we had to do was fill in the blanks, which cut down on the research requirements. During this period, we were in consultation with the Indian Claims Commission in Ottawa and Vancouver to encourage the address of what we believed to be unsettled Treaty matters.
More specifically, we were pursuing a large Reserve that we continue to believe has not been fulfilled according to the understanding of the Chiefs and Councils from the Portage bands. The claim is unique to the three bands and does not affect other Treaty One bands. It involves an interpretation of a clause in the Treaty text that states a Reserve for Yellow Quill to cover an area 25 miles by 25 miles vs. 25 square miles.
The problem we found was the conflicting interpretation of the written text of the Treaty as opposed to the spoken descriptions of Reserve land made by the Indian Commissioners. It is our belief that a misunderstanding developed (intentionally or otherwise) on the part of the Crown when it was realized the extent of landmass to be allocated for the Indians fort their Reserve.
Thousands of pages of history were documented and we had a Treaty Protection Office established in Swan Lake where we filed all of our findings. Our Treaty Protection Office was shut down due to money problems but we kept the research papers and are now stored at Swan Lake.
I worked with Three Bands Development during this time and was made up of Sandy Bay, Swan Lake and Roseau River. This also involved Treaty work. I had the opportunity to work with well-versed leadership on Treaty matters. Carl Roberts was the Chief of Roseau River at the time. Again this office was shut down due to funding or lack thereof.
Throughout my involvement with the Treaties, I had to study various pieces of legislation that affect Indian Rights.
- Royal Proclamation: 1763
- British North America Act (BNA Act)
- The Canadian Constitution
- The Manitoba Act
- Metis History
- Pre-Confederation Treaties (Robinson Treaties etc…)
- Post Confederation Treaties
- All Numbered Treaties (Western Canada)
- Migratory Birds Convention Act
This is a brief summary of my experience with Treaties. It has been some time since I have been involved to any great extent on Treaty work. I am sure I will need to revisit many of the readings to refresh my mind. I enjoy reading and it is one of my favorite pastimes.