A landmark framework agreement between the federal government and Whitecap Dakota First Nation is moving the community towards becoming a treaty territory.
Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett joined Chief Darcy Bear for a signing ceremony at the Dakota Dunes Golf Links clubhouse Monday morning.
Bear told reporters a treaty between Whitecap Dakota and Ottawa would allow for more self-governance and allow the community to buy land outside its boundaries.
“It would enable us to eliminate 25 per cent of the Indian Act. We could now make decisions on our land and move at the speed of business,” he said.
The agreement launches a negotiation process where the Whitecap Dakota community will provide a list of issues they want the treaty to address. Bennett would then take the list to the federal cabinet and receive a mandate to formally offer a treaty to the First Nation.
“This is the way that partners deal with one another, as opposed to the rather tilted power differential that existed for way too long,” the minister said.
Whitecap Dakota First Nation is currently excluded from the treaties signed in Saskatchewan. Chief Whitecap was present at discussions in the 1870s for Treaty 4 and Treaty 6, but wasn’t acknowledged as a signatory.
The treaties give members of other First Nations expanded land rights and other privileges not available to Whitecap Dakota residents.
Chief Bear noted those under treaty are granted 128 acres of land per resident, while Whitecap Dakota is currently allotted 16 acres per capita.
He added treaty women who marry Whitecap Dakota men currently lose their treaty rights, and are instead included in the First Nation’s status register.
“This is about parity,” he said.
Bear mentioned the potential to buy land in Saskatoon’s city limits in the future, so they can begin building an “urban presence” for the community.
He said a treaty would also help the First Nation catch up with surrounding population centres in terms of economic expansion.
“When we’re doing well, everyone is doing well,” he said.
Whitecap Dakota now joins approximately 50 other Indigenous communities that have opened similar negotiations with the federal government nationwide.
“This is the next step toward self-determination,” Bennett said. “That’s the path we’re marking today.”
Whitecap Dakota First Nation is located 30 kilometres south of Saskatoon.