HOME OF THE KAMINISTIKOMINAHIKO-SKAK CREE NATION

John Cochrane First Nation - Open Letter to President Obama

JOHN COCHRANE FIRST NATION
Kaministikominahiko-skak Cree People
Sub Office – 304D, 1401- 28th St. E., Prince Albert, Saskatchewan Canada S6V 6Z8

December 1, 2009
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama,

My name is Chief John Dorion and I am writing to you on behalf of the John Cochrane First Nation Kaministikominahiko-skak Cree people of the Cumberland House region, North Eastern Saskatchewan, Canada. We are seeking your support to pressure the Canadian Federal government to carry out their Treaty obligations to the John Cochrane First Nation Kaministikominahiko-skak Cree people who were party to signing of Treaty #5 in 1875.

As a direct result of the failure of the Canadian federal government to carry out their Treaty obligations and fiduciary responsibilities, we believe we have no choice but to reach out to other member countries of the United Nations such as the United States of America, who have similar experience with Native American Nations.

We read in our news papers that you met with a delegation of First Nation Chiefs from western Canada earlier this year. We are encouraged by your commitment to Native American peoples and Treaty rights. We are also encouraged by your administration’s interest in the reversal of the Bush administration decision to refuse to sign onto the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous Rights. It is unfortunate that the Canadian Federal government refuses to sign the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous Rights. As a result it is difficult to hold the Canadian government accountable to their international obligations in honouring the international Inherent and Treaty rights of the John Cochrane Kaministikominahiko-skak Cree people.

We recognize that your Ancestors have also come through oppression and have had to fight for justice and equality. We as First Nation people share the same struggles of colonization, oppression and paternalism. We understand that there are protocols to follow when entering into discussions of this nature between Nations. Since First Nation Treaties are internationally recognized we are asking that you and your administration intervene on our behalf to ensure that the Canadian Federal government implement the Treaty our Ancestors signed 134 years ago.
The Canadian Federal government does not currently recognize our band. By the Canadian Government’s definition we are considered to be non-status Indians and therefore the government does not recognize us as signatories to Treaty #5. Regardless of the status the Canadian government has labelled us with; we are still Cree people who signed Treaty.

Our Ancestors signed Treaty #5 with the Crown and the Federal government in 1875. It is clear from our research, that our Ancestors were original Treaty #5 members and were cheated out of their Inherent and Treaty rights. As a result of fraud and speculation our Ancestors and their descendants have been deprived of their Treaty rights, entitlements and benefits for 134 years.

On January 15, 2001, as descendants of the John Cochrane First Nation Kaministikominahiko-skak Cree people, we formally reinstated our band at a Band Assembly by Authority of Resolution and elected a Chief, Council Headmen, and established our Elders council.

Because the Canadian government refuses to recognize us as a Treaty First Nation, we do not qualify for the current land claims processes that deal with out standing Treaty business and their failure to secure our consent in regards to our lands and resources as required by the treaty process. Since our band is not recognized by the Canadian government we are not eligible for funding of any kind. The work we do on behalf of our people is all volunteer. The government treats us as if we do not exist.

John Cochrane First Nation Kaministikominahiko-skak Cree people first submitted their three volume re-instatement submission research and supporting documentation on June 25, 2006 to the department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) and the Treaty Commissioner. Our 3 volume submission proves that our Ancestors were party to signing of Indian Treaty #5.

Our Ancestors were promised by the Treaty Commissioner that Treaty was to last as long as the sun shines, the rivers flow, and the grass grows. Instead the federal government has chosen to ignore their agreement with the Kaministikominahiko-skak Cree people, to ignore their obligations to our Ancestors and to disrespect the Spirit and Intent of the Treaties.

To date we have not receive a response to our submission from the Canadian Government – Indian and Northern Affairs department or the Treaty Commissioner. We re-submitted our documentation again in 2008. Now over a year later we are still waiting for a response from the Canadian government and the current Treaty Commissioner - Bill Knight.

We are First Nation people and the Canadian government will not acknowledge their Treaty obligations and fiduciary responsibilities to our people. John Cochrane First Nation Kaministikominahiko-skak Cree people have occupied Cumberland House Territory since before the signing of Treaty #5, we occupied it at the time the band signed Treaty #5, and we still occupy it today. We continue to speak our Cree language, hunt, trap, and fish and carry on with our social and cultural traditions.

Signing of Treaty #5 and the Federal Government Amalgamation process

The John Cochrane First Nation Kaministikominahiko-skak Cree people wish to provide you with some background on John Cochrane First Nation, our traditional territories and why we have been in a 134 year battle with the Canadian federal government for reinstatement of our Inherent and Treaty rights.

One hundred and thirty four years ago, on September 20th, 1875, our Chief John Cochrane signed an adhesion to Treaty #5 on behalf of our people in the Cumberland House region, North Eastern Saskatchewan. In order to fast track the Treaty signing process at that time, the Treaty Commissioners amalgamated several small distinct bands into temporary administrative units or “super bands”. This process was used by the government with many bands across Saskatchewan and Western Canada.

In our case, the Kaministikominahiko-skak Cree people were amalgamated or “lumped together” with several neighbouring bands into what was called “Cumberland Band”. The other bands amalgamated were the Pine Bluff Band (now known as Cumberland House Cree Nation), the Budds Point Band, and the Birch River Band. There is no evidence that these bands agreed to amalgamation.

Over time, the Canadian federal government though orders-in-council de-amalgamated many of these super bands across the Canadian West and reinstated each band as separate, restoring their individual territories and recognizing them as distinct First Nations.

However, 134 years later, the order-in-council has not been issued for recognition of the John Cochrane First Nation Kaministikominahiko-skak Cree people. The Canadian federal government has stopped short of finishing their Treaty business with John Cochrane First Nation. Their promise for reinstatement when they signed Treaty #5 has not been honoured and therefore constitutes a breach of trust and fiduciary responsibility.

Fraud and Speculation - breaches of trust by the Canadian Federal Governments

This grievous breach of trust by the federal government towards our people has been further carried out through fraud and speculation. Currently our band has over 1,100 members all of whom can be traced back to the signing of Treaty #5. Most are considered non-status Indians. Some have regained their status through bill c31. But according to our Elders, scrip or bill c-31 were never a part of the Treaty #5 adhesion.

In 1869, the Canadian government used the process of script as a means of extinguishing Indian title to land. The government policy was to reduce the number of Treaty Indians as a cost saving exercise. Every Indian band in Treaty # 3 - 6 (western Canada) was visited. In the 1880’s many faced starvation and the Indian people were an easy target for scrip speculators who were further assisted by the Federal Indian agents.

In 1885, the Indian agent in the Cumberland region offered script to our band members. At that time only a few members of our band applied for script. Again in 1886, the Indian agent returned to the band and at that time in order to feed their families some signed script. Most of our ancestors could not read or write and were not aware that they were signing documents giving away their Inherent rights.

Some of our ancestors had been paid a very small amount of money for the script by speculators and had been promised more money once the script was issued. They were also told they could continue to live on reserve lands. The speculators did not return to pay them their money and the Indian agents expelled them from their lands and their homes.

The Indian agents took advantage of our Ancestor’s good faith and trust in the Federal government’s agreement to act as trustees and without proper understanding of the meaning of signing script, the Indian Agents and the Canadian Federal government stripped our people of their Inherent rights.

When the government implemented their policy to reduce the number of Treaty Indians, they also reduced the number of bands and the amount of lands that had already been set aside as reserve. Not only would the government not have to pay the annual Treaty money, they no longer had other Treaty responsibilities or obligations to our people. In encouraging our people to withdraw applications from Treaty and surrendering their Inherent rights, the Canadian Federal government and the Indian Agents failed in their legal obligations to protect our people. (If you need more details on the fraud please feel free to check our web page johncochrane.ca)

With the Spirit and Intent of Treaty #5 that our Ancestors signed 134 years ago we need your help to hold the Canadian government accountable. As a respected world leader and a supporter of First Nation Inherent and Treaty rights, we strongly believe that you can help us force the government to complete their Treaty business with our people and to correct the miscarriage of justice and breech of Treaty.

Since we do not have the resources to hold the Canadian government to their Treaty #5 obligations we humbly ask you to appoint a political strategist, someone who is knowledgeable in Nationhood, International Law, and Indian Treaties, to meet and work with the leadership of the John Cochrane First Nation Kaministikominahiko-skak Cree people.

Respectfully,

Chief John Dorion
John Cochrane First Nation

Cc
Congress of American Indians
Prime Minister Steven Harper
Assembly of First Nations
Leader of the Opposition
Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations
Bill McNight, Treaty Commissioner