First Nations Leaders Resolve to Protect Land in Manitoba: AMC, MKO, SCO and AO Demand Immediate Stop to Agricultural Crown Lands Lease and Permit Auction
February 6, 2023
Treaty One Territory, Manitoba
Treaty One Territory – The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC), Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimaknak (MKO), the Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) and the Anishininew Okimawin (AO) are providing Manitoba with notice that they intend to initiate legal proceedings to protect the traditional and ancestral lands of First Nations in Manitoba. The Province of Manitoba intends to proceed with an online land auction taking place February 6, 2023, to 10, 2023, utilizing Garton’s Auction Service.
“We are extremely concerned that this Agricultural Crown Land Lease and Permit Auction is allowed to proceed,” said Grand Chief Cathy Merrick of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. “When First Nations entered into treaties with the Crown, they agreed to share the lands with the newcomers, but the Crown has continuously refused to adhere to its treaty promises. Many First Nations in Manitoba still have not received the full entitlement of reserve lands promised under the terms of treaty. The Crown promised First Nations that we would be able to continue to use our lands as we have always done but then uses their laws to make it impossible to exercise our rights”.
“The Manitoba Government has failed to fulfill its duty to consult with First Nations, and we are not going to stand by and watch our traditional lands and waters be auctioned away,” said Grand Chief Cathy Merrick. “The Chiefs-in-Assembly have made their voices clear. First Nations in Manitoba will take legal action to enforce our Treaty and Aboriginal rights, which are being eroded and infringed by this government’s actions.”
Grand Chief Cathy Merrick wrote to the Premier on February 1, 2023, to request a meeting with Manitoba Crown officials to ensure that First Nations’ inherent and Treaty rights are being respected and upheld. Grand Chief Merrick also asked that the Crown land auction be postponed until the province can confirm that First Nations have been adequately consulted and Treaty rights are protected and that the lands promised to First Nations under the Treaty Land Entitlement Framework are dealt with.
It has been more than 25 years since the Treaty Land Entitlement Framework Agreement was signed, yet it is estimated that only half of the Crown lands promised under that Agreement have been set aside. First Nations in Manitoba and the AMC, MKO, ILTC and SCO continue to call on the government to honour its commitments.
The AMC Chiefs-in-Assembly passed a resolution on February 2, 2023, to state that they strongly oppose the racist and colonial approach of the federal and provincial governments in its treatment of the Treaty Lands and Traditional Territories and waters of First Nations in Manitoba. This practice of auctioning-off large swaths of unoccupied Crown land obstructs the exercise of First Nations’ inherent and Treaty rights to hunt, fish, and trap, which are protected by the Constitution Act, 1982.
Continuing to offer long-term permits and leasing arrangements in a patchwork of lands throughout the province, without consulting First Nations, results in a cumulative diminishment of Treaty rights. The Chiefs-in-Assembly are very concerned that the provincial government did not provide proper and adequate notice to the affected nearby First Nations.
“The practice of selling surplus Crown lands in auction sales goes against the very heart of Treaty obligations of the Crown in right of both Manitoba and Canada to MKO First Nations,” stated Grand Chief Garrison Settee of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak. “The outstanding Treaty Land Entitlements and other land obligations under Treaties and agreements have never been fulfilled to MKO First Nations to this day, and yet the Province of Manitoba continues to announce auction sales of land that are deemed to be “surplus.” Of note, Treaty Land Entitlements arise from outstanding land obligations by the Crown undersigned Treaties with MKO First Nations, sacred covenants between our governments on a Nation-to-Nation basis. It is time for both levels of governments be held accountable for their outstanding Treaty obligations. We continue to possess and exercise our unfettered Aboriginal rights to hunt, fish and gather on the land and expect both levels of governments to accommodate these Creator-given rights as affirmed under Treaties. The Treaty question to land in the MKO territory has yet to be resolved and both levels of governments need to work with our MKO First Nation government going forward by discontinuing the practice of “surplus” Crown land sales. The “Honour of the Crown” and the sacred Treaties demand nothing less,” concluded Grand Chief Settee.
“The Southern Chiefs’ Organization stands with the Chiefs-in-Assembly, who have clearly expressed their opposition to the auctioning-off of lands in Manitoba. I once again call on everyone involved in this process to stop this auction immediately. First Nations must have proper input into how our lands are to be used,” shared Grand Chief Jerry Daniels of the Southern Chiefs’ Organization. “We urge the Province of Manitoba to honour the Treaties and to work with First Nations as true partners. There are serious political consequences for governments that deliberately break promises with the First Peoples of this land.”
“When I think about our lands and our connection to those lands – that is so important to us – when you take our lands, you take our identity,” says Grand Chief Scott Harper of the Anishininew Okimawin, “When decisions like these are made without proper consultation, with First Nations it really affects our way of life. We have seen companies come into our traditional territories and we then see the aftermath and they leave behind nothing positive for our people. We support this position taken by the Chiefs-in-Assembly and stand in solidarity with the other Grand Chiefs here today.”
For more information, please contact:
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs
Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak
Southern Chiefs’ Organization
About the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs
The AMC was formed in 1988 by the Chiefs in Manitoba to advocate on issues that commonly affect First Nations in Manitoba. AMC is an authorized representative of 62 of the 63 First Nations in Manitoba with a total of more than 151,000 First Nation citizens in the province, accounting for approximately 12 percent of the provincial population. AMC represents a diversity of Anishinaabe (Ojibway), Nehetho / Ininew (Cree), Anishininew (Ojibwe-Cree), Denesuline (Dene) and Dakota Oyate (Dakota) people.
About the Southern Chiefs’ Organization
The Southern Chiefs’ Organization represents 34 Anishinabe and Dakota Nations and more than 83,000 citizens in what is now called southern Manitoba. SCO is an independent political organization that protects, preserves, promotes, and enhances First Nations peoples’ inherent rights, languages, customs, and traditions through the application and implementation of the spirit and intent of the Treaty-making process.
About the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak
Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc. (MKO) is a non-profit, political advocacy organization that has represented 26 First Nation communities in Manitoba’s North since 1981. The MKO represents more than 72,000 First Nations people. Incorporated in 1981, MKO is a non-profit, political advocacy organization that provides a collective voice on issues of inherent, Treaty, Aboriginal and human rights for the citizens of the sovereign First Nations we represent. The MKO First Nations are signatories to Treaties 4, 5, 6 and 10.
About the Anishininew Okimawin
Island Lake Anishininew Okimawin is represented by Grand Chief Scott Harper and Chief Charles Knott (Garden Hill First Nation), Chief Samuel Knott (Red Sucker Lake First Nation), Chief Elvin Flett (St. Theresa Point First Nation) and Wasagamack First Nation (Chief Walter Harper), located in Treaty 5 Territory. Their regional office is located in Red Sucker Lake First Nation, Manitoba.