A dispute over farming rights on the Blood Tribe reserve in southern Alberta is pitting the band chief and council against one of the area's biggest and most successful farmers.

For nearly 50 years Keith Chiefmoon has permitted Yak Hengerer to farm his family's land for a yearly fee.

Hengerer has similar arrangements with hundreds of other Blood Tribe members, farming about 23,000 hectares.

Chiefmoon, and many other elders, want these relationships to continue.

But the reserve’s chief and band council do not and the dispute ended up in the Federal Court in Calgary on Thursday.

“He has helped us quite a bit. He's helped the community. I go back some 40 years with him, we became family acquaintances years ago. And there's really no reason for him to be terminated,” said Chiefmoon.

Hengerer is asking the court to rule he has the legal right to continue farming, having signed agreements that don't expire until March 2016.

The band council wants to bring in new farmers but Chiefmoon says no one seems to know why.

“We keep asking the chief. We keep asking the council members. They are refusing to answer that question. We don't know,” he said.

No one from the band council agreed to speak with CBC News.

A federal court judge adjourned the matter until March.