Blood Tribe members vote to ratify $150M settlement with federal government

The vote saw 3,015 ballots cast, with 2,966 in favour of ratification and 49 against.

Vote saw 2,966 ballots cast in favour and 49 cast against

The Blood Tribe says its the federal government devastated its cattle industry in the early 20th century and has been seeking reparations for decades. (Reid Southwick/CBC)

Members of the Blood Tribe in southern Alberta have voted overwhelmingly in favour of ratifying a $150-million settlement with the federal government over concerns the First Nation's burgeoning cattle industry was mismanaged 125 years ago.

The vote saw 3,015 ballots cast, with 2,966 in favour of ratification and 49 against.

The vote was held Monday and the results were announced Tuesday evening.

As a result, each band member will receive $2,000 and the remainder of the funds will be used on capital projects like a community college, a hockey rink, much needed multi-family housing and a treatment facility. The funds will be put into a trust, and interest will also be distributed to members on a yearly basis.

The Blood Tribe will also withdraw its lawsuit over the claim, which was filed two years before the claim was submitted.

Cattle starved, sold for less than worth: claim

The claim states that in the 1880s, the federal government promised to provide cattle to the Blood Tribe after buffalo herds were wiped out, but it never did.

Instead, the Tribe sold horses to purchase cattle on its own, eventually amassing 7,500 head — but Indian Affairs took over management of the cattle, starving the animals and selling them for less than they were worth, the Tribe said.

The Blood Tribe claimed Ottawa mismanaged the herd in numerous ways, including by:

  • Failing to feed cattle enough, or at all, which meant they had to be sold to avoid starvation.
  • Butchering for sale a "large number" of two-year-old steers that were starving and could have yielded three times as much money if they were left on the land to grow fat.
  • Refusing to allow band members to skin the carcasses of cattle that died of starvation when hides were in demand.
  • Selling cattle for less than half their normal value.
  • Selling cattle and failing to account for the proceeds.
  • Selling cattle belonging to Blood Tribe members without their consent.

The claim was filed in 2000 and accepted by Ottawa in 2011, with negotiations taking place between 2013 and 2018. A study was done to determine the value of the losses, which were then expressed in 2019 dollars.

First Rider said the number was agreed upon in April 2018 and Ottawa finally confirmed the total in writing in December when it was brought forward to chief and council.

"That $150 million is the maximum any First Nation can receive through the specific claims process," said First Rider.

About 7,500 people of the Blood Tribe's 12,800 members were eligible to vote.