Manitoba First Nations say fulfil promise and turn over more treaty land

Manitoba First Nations are calling on provincial political parties to fulfil a two decade old promise to make good on land debt.

The Treaty Land Entitlement Committee of Manitoba says 1.1 million acres is owed to 21 First Nations

This Treaty Land Entitlement Framework was signed in 1997 by the federal government, the Manitoba government and the Treaty Land Entitlement Committee of Manitoba. (CBC)

Manitoba First Nations are calling on provincial political parties to fulfil a two decade old promise and make good on land debt.

In 1997, the province, federal government and the Treaty Land Entitlement Committee of Manitoba (TLEC) signed a framework agreement to give land to First Nations who were shortchanged under Treaties 1, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 10.  It was decided at the time that First Nations should have been given more land after the original treaties were signed in the 1800's

The total land owed is 1.1 million acres. In 19 years, less than half has been converted to reserve land.

Jim Bear is Chief of the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation. His community is entitled to 14,481 acres through the TLE process. It has had 679 acres converted to reserve land.
"I'd like to say some positive things, but I don't have much positive to say about the Treaty Land Entitlement process," said Brokenhead First Nation Chief Jim Bear.

Bear worked on the original agreement. He said he hasn't seen much change. His community is entitled to 14,481 acres. It has had 679 converted to reserve land.

"Location, location, location is what all of the First Nations are looking for," said Bear. "We just want to continue to contribute to society as we always did."

His community has a casino, a brand new grocery store, pharmacy and medical clinic. He said First Nations are not "anti-development," just need prime land to set up economic opportunities.

There are 21 First Nations eligible under the 1997 framework agreement.
Chris Henderson challenged all provincial political parties to promise to complete all TLE claims in 10 years. (CBC)
Chris Henderson, who is the Executive Director of the TLEC, said 16 First Nations have signed agreements, 15 of the 16 have receive some new land.

Henderson said the federal government has promised to complete all TLE claim in the next 10 years. He want the province to commit to the same thing.

His organization issued four challenges to provincial parties hoping to get elected on April 19:
  1.  Agree to re-negotiate the terms of the 1997 Manitoba Framework Agreement on TLE.
  2. Allow all TLE selections in provincial parks to become reserve land.
  3. Agree to sell available surplus Crown land for $1.00 an acre to those First Nations that can purchase lands under their TLE agreements.
  4. Stop renewing all existing third party interests, like mining claims and leases, on all TLE Crown land that First Nations are hoping to get.

"This is a constitutional obligation and the province has the obligation to make land available to Canada, so Canada can satisfy it's treaty obligations to treaty Indians," said Henderson.

In an email statement to CBC, ​The Manitoba Liberals said: "We support the Federal Liberal Party's position on resolving land claims as soon as possible and will work with the federal government and First Nations to accommodate this."

"We are the only political party that has made the settlement of TLE, Indigenous Land Use Planning and Indigenous Resource Revenue Sharing a priority," said the NDP in an email statement. "This demonstrates our commitment not only to Indigenous issues, but our commitment to reconciliation as we work towards building a Manitoba where Indigenous Nations are recognized as original stewards of this territory."

"A new Progressive Conservative government will work closely with First Nations to develop new economic opportunities that are real and lasting," said a party spokesperson in an email. "It is time to work positively and respectfully with indigenous people and communities. We will establish a framework for respectful and productive consultations with indigenous communities."

Morris Swan-Shannacappo is the Chief of the Rolling River First Nation. His community has had 5,468 acres converted to reserve land through the TLE agreement. (CBC)
Rolling River Chief Morris Swan-Shannacappo said his community has its eye on 77 acres in Headingley. This land will be bought from the province under the TLE agreement.

"I need [it] transferred really quickly because I have businesses waiting to lease land from us," said the Chief. "One is an international bus company that makes electric buses and they want to lease 30 acres off of us. I really need to push this title fast otherwise we will lose opportunity and they will go somewhere else."

He hopes whichever party is elected in two weeks will commit to this land sale. He thinks he has about four months before the company take its business elsewhere.

About the Author

Jillian Taylor

CBC Reporter

Jillian Taylor has been with CBC Manitoba since 2012 and has been reporting for a decade. She was born and raised in Manitoba and is a member of the Fisher River Cree Nation. In 2014, she was awarded the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association's travel bursary, which took her to Australia to work with Indigenous journalists. Find her on Twitter: @JillianLTaylor