Whitecap Dakota is on the verge of becoming the first self-governing Aboriginal nation in Saskatchewan.

The Whitecap Dakota First Nation (WDFN) is writing Saskatchewan history.

WDFN members voted to have their community become Saskatchewan’s First Self-Governing Indigenous Nation, according to a press release from the nation.

Members voted Oct. 6-7, in person or online, with 92% backing the proposal to adopt a constitution and giving chief and council a mandate to sign a negotiated governance agreement with Canada, the statement said.

« We’ve had this experience with self-government as it relates to land and land management, » Chief Darcy Bear said in an interview with CBC host Peter Mills on Wednesday.

« It was a positive experience that allowed us to generate a lot of our own revenue…. So for our members, it was just a natural transition to look at the rest of the Indian Act. »

LISTEN | Chief Bear spoke about the move with host Garth Materie on The Afternoon Edition:

The afternoon edition – Sask.7:32Saskatchewan. First Nation votes to become first self-governing Indigenous nation

This is the first time this has happened in Saskatchewan. Whitecap Dakota will no longer be under the control of the Indian Act and will have more legislative powers. It joins 78 other self-governing First Nations in Canada. Darcy Bear is the chief of the Whitecap Dakota First Nation and he joined us today.

WDFN said it negotiated a governance agreement, as well as a fiscal relations agreement and implementation plan, with the Canadian government over a 10-year period.

During this time, the community drafted a constitution, establishing the Whitecap Dakota government as the new government within Canada’s constitutional framework, according to the press release.

New provisions will come into force in 2023

The process is not yet complete, with a possible implementation date set for September 2023, according to the leader.

After the recent vote, the WDFN decision will go to the federal cabinet this fall.

The agreement with the federal government is expected to be signed later this year, Bear said.

“This is an important step for Whitecap to move away from the Indian Act, implement their inherent right to self-determination and see a brighter future for their community,” said Crown Relations Minister -Indigenous peoples of Canada, Marc Miller, in the press release.

Although self-government agreements vary from group to group, the documents may establish different law-making powers in various areas, including education, health, or governance.

Indigenous laws must work in harmony with provincial and federal laws, according to the government. In the event of a conflict, Indigenous laws protecting the culture and language in general take precedence.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code continue to apply, the government’s website says.

“Some of the things we take care of [are] for example wills and estates,” Bear said.

« If I die, the federal government still has to approve this will. No other Canadian citizen has to go through that. »

27 agreements across Canada

As of August 2020, there have been 25 self-government agreements across the country involving 43 Indigenous communities, according to the federal government’s website. There are also two education agreements between Canada and 35 aboriginal nations.

Whitecap Dakota says it will be the second Prairie First Nation to sign a self-government agreement. The Sioux Valley Dakota Nation in Manitoba became a self-governing First Nation in 2014.

According to the federal government, there are 25 self-government agreements in the country as well as two education agreements. As a self-governing First Nation, Whitecap Dakota First Nation will no longer be under the control of the Indian Act and will have decision-making authority over a wide range of matters. (Government of Canada)

The Indian Act was passed in 1876 and continues to determine how many First Nations are governed in Canada today.

« It was never about giving indigenous people a chance, » Bear said.

« It was about putting us on small stretches of land called reservations, separating us from society. »


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