buffalo river protest

A group of people from the Buffalo River Dene Nation outside Saskatoon's Court of Queen's Bench. (CBC)

A northern Saskatchewan First Nation has taken the province to court over "duty to consult" issues.

'That's our front and back door. That's our yard.' - Buffalo River Chief Lance Byhette

The Buffalo River Dene Nation said the provincial government should have held discussions before it opened exploration licenses to an Alberta-based company last year. 

Scott Land and Lease bought exploration rights to two thousand square kilometres of land near the First Nation in December 2012.

Buffalo River said many of its people use the land for hunting and cultural ceremonies.

"That's our front and back door," said Buffalo River Chief Lance Byhette. "That's our yard. That's what it boils down to, and we want to preserve and continue to teach our children about nature, how to protect it."

First Nation not consulted

The lawyer representing the First Nation said it wants the court to stop the company from doing any exploratory work until consultation has taken place.

"We're saying that the government did not uphold its honour and engage in a consultation process before making decisions that had the potential to affect their treaty rights," said lawyer Allisun Rana.

The government is arguing it only needs to consult First Nations if the resource project "has significant momentum."

Justice Grant Currie has reserved his decision.

The Buffalo River First Nation is 550 kilometres north-west of Saskatoon.