JOHN COCHRANE FIRST NATION
Kaministikominahiko-skak Cree People
Sub Office – 304D, 1401- 28th St. E., Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, S6V 6Z8
October 30, 2009
To: Chiefs of Member Nations – Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations
On behalf of the John Cochrane First Nation Kaministikominahiko-skak Cree people I 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 federal government for reinstatement of our Treaty rights.
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 Chief, Council Headmen, and established our Elders council.
On April 11, 2001 at our assembly the membership of John Cochrane First Nation approved a resolution to join the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations. Our membership believes it is important to be a part of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations.
From our research, we know that the FSIN’s main mandate is the promotion and protection of Treaties and Inherent Rights. We believe our issues are a good fit with the mandate of the FSIN.
John Cochrane First Nation believes that the FSIN can play an important role in correcting the breech of trust and miscarriage of justice that was done to the Kaministikominahiko-skak Cree People by the government.
We believe that FSIN, through a voice of unity, can hold the federal government accountable to their obligations and responsibilities and not allow the government to continue to dishonour the Spirit and Intent of the Treaties.
Signing of Treaty #5
On September 20th, 1875, 134 years ago, our Chief, John Cochrane signed an adhesion to Treaty #5 on behalf of several smaller, isolated bands in the Cumberland House region. In order to fast track the treaty signing process at that time, the Treaty commissioners amalgamated several 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 federal government though orders-in-council restored many bands across the west within the super bands and reinstated them as separate, individual bands. For example in Manitoba and Saskatchewan the following bands were de-amalgamated into Individual bands and reinstated:
1. In our region, The Pas Mountain Super Band
• The Pas Band
• Red Earth Band
• Shoal Lake Band
2. The LaRonge region, The James Roberts Super Band
• LaRonge Band
• Montreal Lake Band
• Peter Ballantyne Band
3. In Manitoba, The Island Lake Super Band
• Waskamak Band
• St. Teresa Point Band
• Red Sucker Lake Band
• Garden Hill Band
Now, 134 years later, the order-in-council has not been issued for recognition of the Kaministikominahiko-skak Cree people. The 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.
Our ancestors understood 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.
Fraud and Speculation - breaches of trust by 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 was visited. At that time, the 1880’s, faced with starvation our people were an easy target for scrip speculators who were assisted by the Indian agents in encouraging our people to withdraw applications from Treaty.
In 1885, the Indian agent in the Cumberland region offered script to members of the Cumberland Band. At that time only a few members of the 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 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 attempted to expel them from their lands and their homes.
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. (If you need more details on the fraud please feel free to check our web page johncochrane.ca)
It is clear from our research, that our ancestors were original Treaty members of the Cumberland Band 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, privileges and benefits.
Our band remains intact. John Cochrane First Nation - The Kaministikominahiko-skak Cree people were a separate and distinct band before Treaty, at the signing of Treaty #5, and we continue to remain separate and distinct. We continue to speak our Cree language, hunt, trap, and fish and carry on with our social and cultural traditions. We have occupied Cumberland House Territory since before Treaty, we occupied it at the time the band signed Treaty #5, and we still occupy it today.
The members of the John Cochrane First Nation Kaministikominahiko-skak Cree people are lawfully recognized by Treaty #5. Peter Chapman Band and Pine Bluff Band (Cumberland House Cree Nation under the Indian Act) who also signed adhesion to Treaty #5 and were part of Cumberland Band prior to de-amalgamation currently hold membership in the FSIN.
On May 29, 2009 a joint session with the Canadian Senate and FSIN Senate was held with John Cochrane First Nation and other bands working towards reinstatement.
On June 24, 2009 John Cochrane First Nation made the official request for membership in the FSIN. The resolution to support John Cochrane First Nation membership in the FSIN has been vetted and supported by the Indian Government Commission and the Senate as mandated by the Convention of the FSIN.
On July 14, 2009 the Joint Executive Council and Indian Government Commission reviewed and approved the request from John Cochrane First Nation to join the FSIN. It was resolved “that the Chiefs-in-Assembly acknowledge the John Cochrane First Nation membership in the FSIN as an Independent First Nation which shall formally be recognized upon signing the FSIN Convention”.
John Cochrane First Nation Kaministikominahiko-skak Cree people wish to share their disappointment regarding the proceedings on October 28 at the Fall Assembly of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nation, but also hope that through the information we have provided in this letter that you will have a better understanding of our issues and the unfinished Treaty business impacting on John Cochrane Band, lands and membership. Ekosi
Chief John Dorion
On behalf of the John Cochrane First Nation
Kaministikominahiko-skak Cree People