Unfinished Treaty Business
To determine the status of the John Cochrane Band and to take action to reinstate the band and its membership.
Reason for Request
At the present time the John Cochrane Band is not recognized as a separate Band by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.
There is a great deal of uncertainty regarding action the Indian Department took since the
signing of Treaty #5 in 1875 in regards to the status of the Cumberland Bands following the signing of the Treaty and in the implementation of the Treaty since the signing and up to the present time.
Action Taken to Establish Facts
The John Cochrane Band (Kaministikominahiko-skak Cree) is situated 200 miles north east of Prince Albert in the community of Cumberland House, Saskatchewan. A number of descendants of John Cochrane Band who have been deprived of their Indian status have organized to regain their status as First Nations persons and to reconstitute and reinstate the John Cochrane Band.
The reorganized band has requested research funds from INAC to enable the band to review all relevant legal and administrative actions taken by the Indian Department which have affected the status of the band and of the descendants of band members. In 2006 the Band received some funding and prepared a submission for reinstatement and forwarded it to INAC. Since then we have not received a response.
The Cumberland Indian Bands
At the time of the signing of Treaty 5, Alexander Morris in his written accounts of the
signing of the Treaties and of the Adhesions thereto, stated as follows: “ I found that the Cumberland bands of Indians had acknowledged chiefs. ” Where he commented on the assigning of reserves to Indian bands under the provisions of Treaty 5, he recorded the following: “ The Cumberland House Indians are very much scattered; the question of reserves will have to be considered.”
In the adhesion signed by John Cochrane, Albert Flett, and Peter Chapman it appears that the Cumberland bands were dealt with as one band. Alexander’s record does not name the Cumberland bands. However, local tradition was that there were several separate bands living in the region.
The current John Cochrane members do not have access to Indian affairs records to verify exactly how the bands were dealt with in regards to band recognition and reserve assignments. We do know however that six parcels of lands were set aside based on Treaty entitlement of 160 acres or 100 acres per family of five, all under the designation of the Cumberland reserve number 20. The reserve lands were located as follows:
• Cumberland reserve No.20 the largest block of land located adjacent to the Hudson’s Bay Company trading post and town site, assigned to the John Cochrane Band (Kaministikominahiko-skak Cree);
• Four parcels on the North side of the Saskatchewan river approximately 30 miles Northwest of the Cumberland town site and designated 20 A, B, C, and D. These
parcels were assigned to the Pine Bluff band; and
• One parcel of land in the Fort-a-la-Corne Forest Reserve on the South side of the Saskatchewan River designated as 100 A assigned to the Peter Chapman band.
However, it is has been alleged that the Indian department without the consent of the
bands amalgamated the bands into one super band known as the Cumberland Indian Band and that only this band and not the other bands were established by an order in council.
Indian Affairs Dealings With the Cumberland Bands
Following the Treaty signing and the provision of separate reserves for the
Cumberland Bands the Indian department dealt with the bands separately according to government policies and practices regarding the provision of Schools, equipment for farming and the payment of Treaty monies.
The Pine Bluff band did not receive any agriculture equipment as there was no agricultural land where the band was located. For this reason the Indian Commissioner only set aside 100 acres per family of five in the Pine Bluff reserves.
The Indian department continued to relate to the bands according to department policies until a decision was made to amalgamate the Peter Chapman band, the James Smith band, and the Chacastaypasin band that had been allocated a reserve in an area close to St. Louis, Saskatchewan.
The Indian department appears to have dealt with and recognized the separate bands not one super band. The amalgamation of one of three bands, the Peter Chapman band with the James Smith bands supports this interpretation. However, we need to be able to gain access to records of the department which would help us establish what the exact legal status was of the separate bands and/or the super Cumberland Indian band.
The Smallpox Epidemic
There were a number of Smallpox epidemics after the contacts between European traders
and Indians began. The Indians of the John Cochrane band experienced such an epidemic which
we believe based on local knowledge took place during the early 1900's. So many band members died in this epidemic that the remaining members decided to leave the reserve and settle on the Cumberland House town site where it is alleged that the epidemic was less severe and where the chances of surviving the epidemic were better. Up to this time the Indian department had dealt with the John Cochrane band as a separate as far as we can determine.
After the Epidemic
It is unclear how the department dealt with the band members following their leaving the
reserve. However it would appear that the department no longer accepted responsibility for the band or its members as the government policy at that time was that band members who left their reserves were enfranchised and became a provincial government responsibility.
There was a legal process in place which included enfranchised members receiving their share of band trust funds and other assets. In return the enfranchised persons signed a legal document relinquishing their registered Indian status. It does not appear that this process was followed in the case of the John Cochrane band members.
Following the epidemic a few band members moved back to reserve lands. A majority of the remaining band members decided to stay in the town site where they had built homes.
The Pine Bluff Band
In the early 1970's the Indian department moved members of the Pine Bluff band from
their reserve 30 miles Northwest of Cumberland House to the Cumberland House town site. Homes were built in the Town site for the band members. We do not have access to records which would indicate whether this move was done at the request of or with the consent of band members or whether the decision for the move was made unilaterally by the department. Nor do we have access to information about the reasons for the move. However, it is likely that the major reason for the move was to enable band members to gain access to a school for their children as there was no longer a school at Pine Bluff reserve.
According to local knowledge the school burned down around the time of the move. The fact that band members were moved to the town site rather than to the reserve would suggest that the Indian department at that time considered the reserve at Cumberland to be the legal property of another band, namely the John Cochrane band(Kaministikominahiko-skak Cree).
In the early 1980's the department began to build new houses on the reserve and gradually relocated the Pine Bluff band members to the reserve. As we have previously indicated since we do not have access to records of the Cumberland bands we do not know if the Indian department took legal steps to dissolve the John Cochrane band or to amalgamate the remnants of the two bands into one Cumberland Indian band. Also we do not know if the Cumberland reserve was legally reassigned to the Pine Bluff band or to an amalgamated band.
The Current Situation of the John Cochrane Band
Descendants of the members of the John Cochrane band have been meeting for several
years and have informally reconstituted the band and established a membership list. More than 1200 persons who are descendants of John Cochrane members have requested that their names be put on the membership list.
John Dorion has been elected as the interim chief and has been directed to pursue the formal recognition and or reinstatement of the band. For several years we have been carrying on correspondence with the Indian department with the overall goal of determining the legal status of the band.
To achieve this goal we have requested for more research funds to enable the John Cochrane band members to identify and document the historical and legal relationships between the band and the Indian department. The object of the research would be to assist current band members to initiate appropriate action to:
• Determine if the band still legally exists;
• Establish a process to ensure that the department once again deals with the John Cochrane band members(Kaministikominahiko-skak Cree) as it deals with and provides resources and services to all other band members;
• Help the current band to establish which claimants are authentic members of the band, or;
• If the John Cochrane band has been dissolved or was at some time amalgamated with one or more of the other Cumberland bands, to assist the band members to take steps to request and have the government take action to reinstate the band under the provisions of Treaty 5.
Options available to the Government and the John Cochrane First Nation
a) The government could identify the legal status of the John Cochrane band at the present time under the provisions of Treaty 5. The government should direct the Indian department to begin a dialogue with the reconstituted band to put in place a process to ensure the current band members if so entitled obtain all of the rights and government services currently available to other Status Indians.
b) If the government determines the band was amalgamated with other bands we request that the government take action to legally recognize the band by order in council and direct the department to deal with the band as outlined in a) above.
c) The government should take legal action as necessary to reinstate the band and/or direct the department to take such administrative steps as necessary to deal with the band under the provisions in Treaty 5 and of the Indian Act.
d) In the event that the government refuses to take any action in regards to this issue
the John Cochrane band (Kaministikominahiko-skak Cree) still has available the right to seek redress through court action. This action could be by way of suing the government over the loss of rights, privileges and benefits which should have accrued to members of the John Cochrane band, had the government fulfilled its legal undertaking as provided for in Treaty 5 which is now part of the Canadian Constitution, and as provided for in the Indian Act.
The current membership of the John Cochrane band (Kaministikominahiko-skak Cree) seeks to avoid this particular approach to resolving this issue. We know from experience that proceeding via court action is a long drawn out process and will in the long term be a much more costly way of resolving the John Cochrane band issue than if we pursue all of the other available options.
Chief John Dorion
JOHN COCHRANE FIRST NATION