Manitoba offers traditional lands to Sayisi Dene First Nation forced to relocate in 1950s - APTN NewsAPTN News

Manitoba offers traditional lands to Sayisi Dene First Nation forced to relocate in 1950s

Sayisi Dene First Nation at a federal government apology in 2016 for the loss of traditional lands 1000-x-560

(Members of the Sayisi Dene First Nation at a federal government apology in 2016. Photo: APTN)

The Canadian Press
The Sayisi Dene First Nation, a northern Manitoba community that was forced to relocate 61 years ago will be getting some of its traditional lands back.

The provincial government has signed an agreement to transfer 52 square kilometres of Crown land near Little Duck Lake to the federal government so that it can be converted to a reserve for the Sayisi Dene First Nation.

Read the release here: Province of Manitoba

The community’s 250 residents were forced to move to Churchill in 1956 after they were blamed for a steep decline in the caribou herd, an idea later proven untrue.

In their new location on Hudson Bay, food was scarce, housing was inadequate and many residents died prematurely.

Read More: Sayisi Dene First Nation

The Manitoba government apologized for its role in 2010 and, last year, the federal government apologized and offered $33.6 million in compensation.

The community’s chief, Tony Powderhorn, said the land agreement helps address a long-standing wrongdoing.

“It is a recognition that removing us from our land was wrong,” Powderhorn said at a signing ceremony at the Manitoba legislature Wednesday.

“It is an important step in reconciliation.”

Manitoba Indigenous and Northern Relations Minister Eileen Clarke said the forced relocation from their traditional lands should not have happened.

“They were relocated to areas devoid of the materials and resources that their people had always relied on. There was no adequate shelter, supplies or game to hunt.”

In 1973, the Sayisi Dene left the Churchill area and moved back near their traditional territory at Tadoule Lake.

The 52 square kilometres that will be transferred is further north, near the former Hudson’s Bay store where cargo planes were used to move the residents.

“That’s where everything started and happened,” Powderhorn said.

“We can probably go back and forth there (now), for maybe spring gatherings or something like that.”

The community’s previous chief, Ernest Bussidor, was born one month before the relocation. When the federal government apologized last year, he recalled that many survivors of the relocation had suffered post-traumatic stress.

“People freezing to death, fires, you name it,” Bussidor said.

“A lot of children died. That kind of stuff never leaves you.”

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One Response to “Manitoba offers traditional lands to Sayisi Dene First Nation forced to relocate in 1950s”

    Kristianna Thomas September 21, 2017 at 4:35 pm #

    As a non-native Noth American (non-gringo), when I think of forced relocation of First nation peoples I think of what had occurred some one hundred years ago. This forced relocation took place some sixty years ago. This policy of the removal of native people has been an ongoing policy, like that of the Jim Crow Laws that were meant to deal with the slave populations of the America’s. From the Native Indian Removal Act of 1830; to the forced removal of Canadian Sayisi Dene nation has proven to be atrocities that continued to play a major role in relations between the Canadian Government and Native Nations. Furthermore, the use of reserve to distinguish Native communities and non-native communities. I may be overstepping my boundaries, but are not reserves meant for animals. In Africa, there are only animal reserves, and there is no such thing as a human reserve. Why are lands reclaimed by Native people called reserves? I know that there is a link between the reservation system; like that of the Bantustan system during Apartheid. Will the injustice that brought upon the Dene help them rebuild their community? They may have gotten a portion of their land back, but what have they lost in the long run?