Sioux Valley Dakota First Nation attains self-governance
Southwestern Manitoba First Nation becomes 1st in Prairies with agreement
The Sioux Valley Dakota First Nation in southwestern Manitoba is celebrating a historic milestone, becoming the first in the Prairies to attain self-governance.
The First Nation, located west of Brandon, becomes the third First Nations community in Canada to reach a self-government agreement, following two decades of negotiations with the federal and provincial governments.
Sioux Valley Chief Vince Tacan and other officials signed the agreement at a ceremony Friday afternoon.
"There are some days we thought it would never happen, but we persevered," Tacan said, adding that teamwork played a role.
He was joined by federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt and Eric Robinson, Manitoba's minister of aboriginal and northern affairs.
With the agreement, the First Nation is "moving back to the way we were before … taking care of ourselves [and] our own priorities," Tacan said.
20 years in the making
Bruce Slusar, the lawyer for Sioux Valley, has been leading the negotiations. He said it's been more than 20 years in the making.
"The importance of these agreements are a recognition by Canada and the province of Manitoba for Sioux Valley Dakota Nation to have jurisdiction or power and authority to make laws," he said.
Self-governance will free the First Nation from being under the jurisdiction of the Indian Act and give it greater control over economic development, education, housing, water and land management.
"That legislation [the Indian Act] has not proven successful in terms of assisting First Nations, so this is an opportunity for Sioux Valley Dakota Nation to have the opportunity to make laws and control their own destiny," Slusar said.
In a news release, Valcourt said the agreement will release the First Nation "from the grip of significant parts of the Indian Act and provide them with greater control over their own affairs.
"They also provide the governance tools required to attract economic opportunities, and build stronger, more accountable, self-sufficient and prosperous communities. This is an important step forward on the path of reconciliation and demonstrates that by working together we can deliver results for all Canadians," Valcourt added.
Friday's signing ceremony will be followed by a weekend-long powwow.