Beardy's & Okemasis Cree Nation, Ottawa conclude $4.1M settlement for withheld funds
Announcement preceded gathering about former residential school
The federal government announced Monday that it has officially concluded a claim worth several million dollars with Beardy's and Okemasis Cree Nation over historically withholding salaries promised to leadership under Treaty Six.
According to the government, the funds are compensation for the salaries and annuities it had withheld from the nation's chiefs and headmen from 1885 to 1951 when it deemed the community was associated with the Northwest Rebellion, an uprising led by Métis leader Louis Riel in 1885.
"I was very honoured to be able to accept another significant contribution to our First Nation," said Edwin Ananas, chief of Beardy's and Okemasis Cree Nation, calling the settlement claim "historic."
"Canada — I guess they said Beardy's was part of the rebellion so we were stripped of our chief and our council's members for so many years," Ananas said.
The claim was settled in June for a little more than $4.1 million for what Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller called a "pretty black-and-white violation of treaty."
"[This claim] is something that I think we can all agree should never have happened in the first place," Miller said Monday inside a teepee surrounded by other teepees at Duck Lake, where the former St. Michael's Indian Residential School once stood.
"It is something that is based in our shared history, but a moment in time as Canada was being formed and built on treaty where Canada turned on its own and used force against people who were resisting early — because we did it later — but an early violation of treaty."
Ananas said money from the settlement has yet to be earmarked, saying the membership will determine how the money will be used to aid the 3,600 members of the nation, including those on and off reserve.
The announcement opened the 2022 St. Mikes Indian Residential School Gathering, an annual, week-long event in the community.
Its daily activities include speakers discussing intergenerational trauma and the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
Ananas said Beardy's has other issues that have yet to be resolved, including a flood claim and agricultural claim.
The announcement concluded Miller's week-long visit to Saskatchewan where he spoke with several Indigenous communities, including providing an apology to Peepeekisis Cree Nation for the File Hills Colony Scheme.