Flying Dust First Nation to get land back from Canadian government after 91 years

In 1932, the Government of Canada expropriated roughly 85 hectares of land on the northeastern edge of Meadow Lake from Flying Dust First Nation to accommodate a railway company.

85 hectares northeast of Meadow Lake expropriated in 1932 to make room for railway company

Little boy dressed in head dress and multicoloured regalia poses for a photo outside in the summetime.
Liam Littlespruce, 9, danced at Wednesday’s ceremony to honour the land transfer between Flying Dust First Nation and the government of Canada. He stands in front of the RCMP detachment newly named 'Peyatikiyimotan,' which means 'Let's all live in peace' in English, on land that will once again be owned by Flying Dust First Nation. (Bonnie Allen/CBC)

After more than 90 years, Flying Dust First Nation in northwestern Saskatchewan is getting some of its land back from the Canadian government.

Meadow Lake RCMP hosted a ceremony Wednesday morning, on Indigenous Peoples Day, to commemorate the transfer. The RCMP detachment sits on some of the land that is being returned to Flying Dust First Nation.

Richard Durocher — who is Cree vice-chief of the Meadow Lake Tribal Council, a member of Flying Dust First Nation and sat on the community's band council for decades — emceed the celebration.

He said he remembers when Flying Dust first put in a grievance to the government in 1992 about the parcel of land, which is located on the northeastern edge of Meadow Lake.

"It's been a long negotiation with Canada to get this land back to its rightful owner," Durocher told CBC News.

"With the ceremonies planned, I think it shows the willingness of the RCMP and the Government of Canada working together to achieve that goal on behalf of the Flying Dust First Nation."

Members of Flying Dust First Nation, the Meadow Lake RCMP and local politicians gather for photo in front of teepee.
Dignitaries gathered Wednesday at a ceremony commemorating the upcoming return of land on the northeastern edge of Meadow Lake expropriated from Flying Dust First Nation in 1932 to accommodate a railway company. (Submitted by Dion Petz)

In 1932, the federal government expropriated about 85 hectares of land from Flying Dust to accommodate the Canadian Pacific Railway. However, only a sliver of the land was used. The rest remained undeveloped.

According to Flying Dust, Canadian Pacific was supposed to return unused land to the community.

Flying Dust First Nation Chief Tyson Bear said getting most of the land back now "opens up a lot of avenues" for the community. It's already planning a new subdivision.

"It makes it a little easier now to grow — to grow together and keep the community safe," Bear said.

Durocher agreed, noting community leaders plan to develop the land once the paperwork is finalized in the fall.

"We're hoping with more services come more people. And if Flying Dust can get more services — such as those big box stories, boutiques and stuff like that — built on Flying Dust land, in will come the families," he said.

"We want to be a part of the economy of Meadow Lake and we want to help grow Meadow Lake."

Women dressed in Indigenous regalia stand beside a Mountie to watch a dance performance outside in the summertime.
Members of Flying Dust First Nation, the Meadow Lake RCMP and local politicians gathered Wednesday morning for a ceremony to honour the land transfer. (Bonnie Allen/CBC)

'Putting words into action'

Rhonda Blackmore, the assistant commissioner and commanding officer of the Saskatchewan RCMP, said she hopes this land transfer also symbolizes a growth in the bond between the First Nation and Mounties.

"This is an example of reconciliation and putting words into action," she said.

"We acknowledge the historic trauma that has been part of the history between Indigenous people and the RCMP. As we look to build a new history, this is part of that positive change — that way forward, where we build that trust."

Durocher agreed.

"We want people to understand that the RCMP are here to protect us, and not to see it in a negative way," he said, noting both parties' wellness and addictions teams often help the same community members.

"If we work together, we're going to be far better off than if we work in our little silos."

To mark the land transfer, senior RCMP officers joined Indigenous leaders and elders in a morning pipe ceremony and the smudging of the RCMP building.

The detachment was given the Cree name "Peyatikiyimotan" —  which translates in English to "Let's All Live in Peace" — and two new flags were raised at the detachment from Flying Dust First Nation and Treaty 6 Territory. 

With files from Bonnie Allen