Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation concludes historic land deal with federal and provincial governments

The Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation, the federal government and the province rectified a mistake more than a century old last week when they signed an agreement compensating the Cree Nation for land it should have received when the reserve was created.

Deal brings Cree Nation $43.3M and more than 40,500 acres of land in compensation

The Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation will receive financial compensation and land as part of an agreement it reached with the federal government and the government of Saskatchewan after the band was shorted land when its reserve was created in the 1800s. (Penny Smoke/CBC)

The Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation was shorted land by the federal government in 1878 but that historical wrong has been rectified. 

When the Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation signed Treaty 6 in 1876 it was promised one square mile (640 acres) per family of five or 128 acres of land per person.

A federal order in council set 42,988.8 acres of land aside as a reserve for the Cree Nation — enough for 336 people. But there were actually 368 members eligible for land, leaving the community short 4,115.2 acres. 

Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation, located approximately 160 kilometres north of Saskatoon, submitted the treaty land entitlement claim in July 2001 and it was accepted for negotiations in May 2010, according to a government release.

On Wednesday the Cree Nation, federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller and Don McMorris, the provincial government's minister responsible for First Nations, Metis and northern affairs announced they had reached an agreement to compensate the community for the shortfall. 

The deal was achieved through the Treaty Land Entitlement process, which was established to remedy historical allegations of inadequate reserve land allocations.

"Thinking of our future generations, this settlement will provide for hunting and trapping lands, cultural and ceremonial lands, as well as additional lands for our members to benefit from," Ahtahkakoop Chief Larry Ahenekew said in a prepared statement. 

The Cree Nation will receive $43.3 million, provided by both the federal government and provincial government. 

The Cree Nation also has the option to acquire up to 40,659 acres of land to add to its existing reserve lands.

The province and the federal government are to set aside $6.7 million dollars of compensation to rural municipalities and school divisions once taxable land becomes reserve land.

Though he didn't specify when, Ahenekew said the settlement will assist band members and provide economic development opportunities, while creating employment on Ahtahkakoop-owned lands.

McMorris said the province was pleased to reach an agreement with Ahtahkakoop, which he said demonstrates the province's commitment to reconciliation. 

"[It] provides for Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation with opportunities to invest inland, economic development and community enhancement," McMorris said. 

"These projects will benefit not only Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation, but all of Saskatchewan." 

A government of Canada information sheet distributed with Wednesday's announcement said Ahtahkakoop members voted 97 per cent in favour of agreeing to the settlement in October, 2021. 

The province executed the settlement agreement in January and the federal government reached agreement last month.