Ottawa rejects claims by Dakota, Lakota First Nations
The Canadian government has rejected claims from Dakota and Lakota First Nations in Manitoba and Saskatchewan that they have aboriginal rights to land.
In a letter to nine bands last week, the federal Indian Affairs Department said although there is a longstandingclaim that the Dakota people once used and occupied portions of Manitoba and Saskatchewan to the extent that they have rights to the land, the government disagrees.
"It is the position of the government of Canada that the Dakota/Lakota First Nations do not have aboriginal rights in Canada," the July 25 letter from assistant deputy minister Michel Roy said.
Ottawa is also rejecting the claim of the Dakota and Lakota First Nations that they should be included in the treaties that most Prairie First Nations already belong to.
Not being treaty Indians means the Dakotas and Lakotas weren't included in the multimillion-dollar treaty land entitlement process in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
That process has seen the transfer of cash and land to First Nations that had been historically short changed.
The Dakotas and Lakotas, who number about 6,000 in Canada,receive some of the same entitlements through Indian Affairs that other First Nations receive.
However, if they were covered by the treaties, they would theoretically have more access to natural resource revenues and other potential benefits.
When the treaties were signed in the 1870s, the Canadian government refused to sign a deal with the descendants of Chief Sitting Bull, because they were viewed as American refugees.
However, Manitoba historian James Morrison says the Dakotas were in Canada before the Europeans arrived.
"The historical evidence indicates that there were Dakota settlements in the 18th and early 19th century, at various times, in southern Saskatchewan, as well as Manitoba and northwest Ontario," Morrison told CBC.
Roger Redman, the chief of Standing Buffalo Dakota First Nation, which is located near Fort Qu'Appelle, Sask., said he wasn't surprised by Ottawa's response.
His band is now suing Ottawa, having filed a motion on Friday with the Federal Court of Appeal. He's optimistic about the band's chances.
"I think the chances are good, based on previous court cases," he said. "As Dakota people, we want to stop the discrimination."
Meanwhile, the federal government says it still wants to talk to the bands about addressing some of their grievances. It's trying to set up meetings with representatives of the nine First Nations.