Blood Tribe members ratify $150M settlement over historic cattle claim

Members of the Blood Tribe in southern Alberta have voted in favour of ratifying a $150-million settlement with Ottawa.

Federal government says it's one of many steps on the journey of reconciliation

The Government of Canada promised to provide cattle to the Blood Tribe in Treaty 7, signed in 1877, but failed to follow through. (Alex MacIsaac/CBC)

Members of the Blood Tribe in southern Alberta have voted in favour of ratifying a $150-million settlement with Ottawa.

The claim dates back to the historic and controversial Blackfoot Treaty of 1877, the deal between the federal government and First Nations in what is now southern Alberta.

Treaty 7, which was signed on Sept. 22, 1877, included a promise from federal officials to provide cattle to the Blood Tribe.

The government failed to do so, which led to significant economic damages, the Tribe says.

"In 1882, the Tribe was ready to take over the cattle that was promised under treaty. But we never received it," Coun. Dorothy First Rider said during a livestream, held in July prior to the vote. 

Results of the vote were announced during a livestream on Thursday night. Out of 7,758 eligible voters, 2,187 ballots were cast, surpassing the 25 per cent threshold required to ratify the settlement. 

A majority voted in favour of the settlement, with 1,734 ballots cast in favour and 453 votes cast against.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Indigenous Services Canada said such negotiated settlements help to "right past wrongs, renew relationships and advance reconciliation for the benefit of all Canadians."

"Settling claims is one of many steps on the journey of reconciliation with First Nations and helps create a better future for everyone," said Danielle Geary in an email.

As part of Treaty 7, the federal government said it would provide education and annual treaty payments to Indigenous people in exchange for ceding the land.

But today, it's largely understood that First Nations like the Blood Tribe did not intend the treaty to function as an agreement to surrender their traditional lands, and that the terms laid out by the federal government were frequently left unfulfilled.

Allocation of funds

In 2019, the Blood Tribe voted to ratify a separate $150-million settlement with Ottawa, which focused on cattle mismanagement. 

That claim focused on Indian Affairs taking over management of 7,500 cattle, eventually starving the animals and selling them for less than they were worth, according to the claim.

That settlement provided band members a $2,000 per capita payment, while remaining funds were set aside for capital projects.

As a result of Thursday's vote, each registered band member will receive $3,000, and the remainder of the funds will be used on capital projects, including multi-family townhouses and apartments, a funeral parlour, homeless shelters and other projects.

A long-term investment fund will be set up with a $25-million investment, intended to benefit future generations, the tribe said. Trustees will develop a plan for the investment, to be approved by the chief and council.

The settlement agreement also releases Canada from any future claims regarding the treaty entitlement to cattle.

Once the settlement agreement is signed, it is to be returned for signature to Canada's minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations.

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