Our Treaty Story.
On August 23 With the smells of sweat grass, Mennonite farmers sausage, and bannock three groups cam e together on top of a small hill and broke bread, St John’s Lutheran Church, Laird Mennonite community including MCC, and Members for the Young Chippewayan First Nation and, the Treaty Six Community. We gathered in order to explore our common identity as Treaty People.
There is a lot of history leads up to this event that occurred long before settlers even began to move on to the land. Just west of Laird is small mound known as Stony Hill. This was the land chosen by our founding settles to be the place of worship, a place where they built their Church. It is also the Land that is the center of what was once a Stony Knoll Indian Reserve 107.
In 1876, under Treaty 6, 30 square miles surrounding Stoney Hill/Knoll was given to the Young Chippewayan band as reservation #107 in return for their signing on to Treaty 6. According to the Indian Claims Commission Young Chippewayan Inquiry Report (1994) the 1870, 1880 and 1890’s “were difficult years.” The Chippewayan Band was one of many bands not able to sustain themselves while awaiting the implementation of treaty assistance during their economic and cultural transition to farmin. The rapid disappearance of the buffalo, disease and climatic hardship forced the Young Chippewayan Band to move continually in search for their sustenance. By 1883 it was becoming clear to Government Officials that the Young Chippewayan Band had not settled on Stony Knoll Reserve #107 and they continued to look for food elsewhere. In 1885 the Riel Rebellion occurred and at the time the Young Chippewayan Band was considered to have taken some part in the uprising. The Government enacted measures against those Nations participating or suspected of participation in the 1885 rebellion. Three years later in 1885 the Department of Indian Affairs no longer identified the Young Chippeayan Band as a separate Band. On October 12, 1895 the Dominion Lands Office wrote to the Minister of the Interior, advising that Stony Knoll Indian Reserve No 107 would make prime land for settlement. This resulted in the land being taken over and on May 3, 1897 an order was given by the Indian Affairs Department “relinquishing title to the reserve and restoring it to the Department of the Interior. Mennonite farmers, German speaking Lutherans began to establish themselves on this land.
Over the years, relationships between members of the Young Chippewayan band and the settlers have not been cordial. In 2006 we came together for the first time and signed a Memorandum of Understanding. It is this memorandum that has helped to shape our relationship. The gathering on August 23 is the result of this ongoing relationship.
The gathering began with the Battlefords Agencies of Tribal Chiefs annual feast. After the traditional blessings and sharing of the pipe everyone was served a bounty of food. This feast was in celebration of the 135th year since Treaty Six was signed. The day continued with the sharing of the Young Chippewayan story.
When Treaty six was signed, land was set aside for both the first nations community and for settlement. This is where we find a common sense of identity in the treaty’s. But since in our case this treaty obligation was not fulfilled we have been working to help address this historical wrong.
History is not very favorable when one begins to look at the issues of land claim and treaty rights. There are not many examples in Canada that one can hold up as a model. Yet that is our issue. Gary LaPlante (representative of Young Chipewayan ) stated to the question if land can be taken away “That is not the case,” he said, noting government policies require “a willing seller and a willing buyer.” A process has been established to set compensation for the land that has been lost. He continued to state that the Young Chipewaywan Band conflict is not with the current owners of the land but with Federal Government and the historical wrong. When we are able to address some of our fears we are able to begin to trust. This was the message shared by Willmer Froese, land owner and Mennonite Pastor. This is the foundation of any relationship, and in relationship we are able to work together to explore how to make things right . WE have been working together on a genealogical project in which we are trying to establish the Young Chipewayan heritage. This is one of the first steps needed to set a foundation for process of seeking justice. Experts that were hired to work on this project shared their research and the difficulty of this process. The day concluded with everyone receiving a treaty medal which was presented by the Treaty Commissioner.
August 23 we came together, gathered as people in relationship working together to seek justice for a historical wrong. Working together to seek healing for our communities; working together in order that we may live together, and working together so that our mission may be active and alive.
This is our story. This is who we are. This is how we struggle to live out our calling as a community of faith. A community in which God is active and leading us forward in our mission with others. And we hope to an example of how communities can work together in peace.
For more information go to http://youngchippewayan.blogspot.com/