The chief of Carry the Kettle First Nation says her people have had enough.
“We don’t have any fishing rights. Our hunters have to travel halfway across the province to hunt and so these are infringements of our treaty rights and our treaty obligations when we signed,” said Chief Elsie Jack.
Jack said her community’s traditional territory in southern Saskatchewan has been divided, developed or destroyed by the provincial and federal governments over the years.
So, they are taking both governments to court in a lawsuit filed Dec. 21.
“The promises made to Carry The Kettle (CTK) in Treaty 4 have been broken and the rights protected therein have been breached,” the lawsuit states.
The civil suit could wide-ranging impact for Indigenous communities across Canada, predicts lawyer Robert Janes, who represents the Nakota band.
“Anybody living in southern Saskatchewan now knows that…there is extensive development in terms of agricultural, land settlement, there are mining operations and…there is almost nowhere left,” he told reporters Wednesday.
Janes said the suit aims to force governments to talk about the cumulative effect of development – now and in the future – and take that into consideration when pitching projects.
But ultimately, he said, it’s about finding “a fair way” to share the land so the First Nation isn’t “pressed out of existence.”
A spokesperson for Saskatchewan confirmed it had been served and declined to comment further now that the matter was before the courts.
Janes, who is with JFK Law, said the band is looking specifically for guidelines for the development of Crown land surrounding the reserve, input on legislation that affects its traditional practices and possibly financial compensation.
He said it’s the first legal action of its kind taken by a First Nation in Saskatchewan.