The Siksika Nation has voted to ratify an agreement with the federal government for a one-time payment of $1.3 billion following a wrongful surrender claim dating back more than a century.
Around 70 per cent of eligible voters turned out to polls held Thursday and Friday, according to a news release from the nation. Around 77 per cent voted yes on the referendum.
The Siksika Nation will discontinue all related filed court actions. The acceptance also includes the option to apply for up to 115,000 acres of land anywhere in Alberta purchased by the nation to add to the reserve.
“The people have spoken,” Siksika Nation Chief Ouray Crowfoot said in an interview Sunday. “And that was the main difference between this vote and the illegal vote that took place in 1910.”
1910 wrongful surrender
The claim stems from a land surrender from more than a century ago. Crowfoot said the vote that took place then was fraudulent — adding that some people on the list who voted yes were underage or even dead.
The agreement also covers claims on breaches of duty in taking reserve land for use by third parties in connection with the Canadian Pacific Railway, flooding and release of sewage onto the reserve without its permission, and the unlawful taking of around 500 acres of reserve for the Bow River Irrigation Project.
“This is not a case of reconciliation,” Crowfoot said. The nation lost almost half their land base and access to ceremonial sites.
“This is a case of basically righting a wrong that should’ve never happened.”
Siksika Nation and the Canadian federal government entered into negotiations in 2016. This summer, the Global Settlement Agreement was announced.
Last week’s vote certified nation members’ acceptance. Crowfoot said the agreement follows efforts that date back to the 1960s.
“There’s been a lot of chiefs, a lot of council, a lot of technicians that’s put in a lot of work over six decades.”
Crowfoot said the nation plans to set up a trust to move Siksika Nation towards financial sovereignty. Next steps will include information sessions for nation members.
The money will open up opportunities for nation members, he said, levelling the playing field and reducing historical barriers.
Crowfoot says the financial injection will benefit many, including non-nation members. Infrastructure and construction will likely require skill sets and labour from outside the reserve while much of the money will likely flow through Calgary.
Partnerships will also play a part in the future, he said.
“This is not just a win just for Siksika, this is a win for all of southern Alberta.”