Indigenous

Idle No More founder in Sask. court for 'unlawfully occupying park land'

Idle No More co-founder Sylvia McAdam and her brother Kurtis McAdam will go to trial in a Saskatchewan courtroom on Wednesday for building a cabin on ancestral territory they say was intended to be set aside as reserve land.

Sylvia McAdam and her brother were building a cabin near Delaronde Lake

Sylvia McAdam is hoping that her case brings attention to the Doctrine of Discovery and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Call to Action 45. (Bryan Eneas/PAnow/JPBG)

Idle No More co-founder Sylvia McAdam and her brother Kurtis McAdam will go to trial in a Saskatchewan courtroom on Wednesday for building a cabin on ancestral territory they say was intended to be set aside as reserve land.

They were issued a warning by the province in 2017 for "unlawfully occupying park land."

The place where they were building a cabin was near ZigZag Bay on the west side of Delaronde Lake, a 40-minute drive from Big River First Nation where they are registered members, about 200 km north of Saskatoon.

Kurtis McAdam was building the cabin when someone made a complaint.

"Provincial Court says it's a recreational site and that we're not allowed to build," said Kurtis McAdam.

"When my great-grandfather Saysewehum took treaty in 1878 at Fort Carlton, that land was supposed to be set aside for him," said Kurtis.

"Then what happened was a sickness took most of the community and from there it was supposed to be surveyed, but then a forest fire happened, so they never completed the survey."

Their grandfather, Albert McAdamSaysewehum, was the last of their family to live there.

"What I'm hoping is that it's recognized as a reserve, that Chief Saysewehum took treaty and that was the land that his descendants would live and that we can go back home to it."

Meetings with province

Sylvia McAdam said going to court is a culmination of failed meetings between her family and the province over the years over whose territory it is.

"The meetings fell apart because they didn't agree with us when we told them that these are our lands and they have always been our lands," said McAdam.

"Even though they agreed with us that these are treaty lands, they said they had to uphold the Parks Act because it's part of their job."

A photocopied version of a ticket that was issued to Sylvia McAdam in 2017. (Submitted by Sylvia McAdam)

Section 25 of Saskatchewan's Parks Act states: "No person shall enter, use or occupy park land except in accordance with this Act and the regulations."

She said she hopes the case brings attention to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Call to Action 45, which is to "repudiate concepts used to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous lands and peoples such as the Doctrine of Discovery and Terra Nullius."

"We need people to start thinking seriously about that, because this government cannot pick and choose what they're comfortable to work with," she said.

In an emailed statement to CBC News, Saskatchewan's Ministry of Justice said it was unable to discuss the details of cases that are before the courts.

The trial will be in Prince Albert in Cree Court, a circuit court where the judge, clerks and court workers speak Cree and defendants can address the court in that language.

About the Author

Lenard Monkman

Lenard Monkman is Anishinaabe from Lake Manitoba First Nation, Treaty 2 territory. He is the co-founder of Red Rising Magazine and has been an associate producer with the CBC's Indigenous unit for three years. Follow him on Twitter: @Lenardmonkman1