Zagimē Anishinabēk First Nation to get $20.3M for insufficient reserve land under treaty

The federal and Saskatchewan governments have reached a settlement agreement with Zagimē Anishinabēk, which will see the First Nation receive a $20 million treaty land entitlement claim.

The settlement will help the First Nation add about 18,000 acres to the reserve

Zagimē Anishinabēk Chief Lynn Acoose reached an agreement with the federal and Saskatchewan governments for a land claim worth about $20.3 million. (Submitted by Vic Savino, Southern Chiefs Organization)

Zagimē Anishinabēk First Nation, about 130 km east of Regina, has reached a $20.3 million land claim agreement with the federal and Saskatchewan governments. 

The settlement addresses a land shortfall, in which the First Nation received less land than they were promised under treaty.

In 1874, Zagimē Anishinabēk, formerly Sakimay First Nation, signed Treaty 4 and was to receive 128 acres per person. They received 31,829 acres of land as reserve — enough for about 248 people.

But it was determined that Zagimē Anishinabēk's population at the time was 271, resulting in a shortfall of 2,859 acres, according to a federal government release Thursday.

Under the agreement dated June 20, the federal government will pay $14.5 million and Saskatchewan will pay $5.8 million within 45 days.

The money will help Zagimē Anishinabēk add about 18,620 acres of land to the reserve.

10 years of negotiations

Zagimē Anishinabēk Chief Lynn Acoose said while it's a relief to have the settlement finalized, it shouldn't have taken so long. 

"It took us 10 years of negotiating for a fair price on the cost per acre. And I think that's a really long time to have to spend our resources and our time trying to settle this claim," she said in an interview Friday.

"Claims shouldn't take that long. And the longer these steps toward reconciliation take, the more lost opportunities that we experience."

The federal and provincial governments have also agreed to set aside a total of $3.1 million as compensation to rural municipalities and school divisions once taxable land is set apart as reserve.

Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Marc Miller said the federal government remains “committed to addressing the harm caused to the Zagimē Anishinabēk people.” (Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick)

Federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Marc Miller said the settlement with Zagimē Anishinabēk "addresses a past wrong committed by Canada.

"We remain committed to addressing the harm caused to the Zagimē Anishinabēk people, to continue to improve our relationship," he said in the news release. 

Saskatchewan's Minister Responsible for First Nation, Metis and Northern Affairs Don McMorris said: "There will now be opportunities for land investment, economic development, and community enhancements."

Canada has settled more than 183 specific claims with First Nations, worth about $8.9 billion, since Jan. 1, 2016, according to the federal government.