In August 2014 the Kaministikominahiko-skak Cree Nation, formerly known as the John Cochrane Band, launched a law suit against Perry Bellegarde, Chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) for the improper handling of our membership in the FSIN.
We have received numerous questions about our current legal action against the FSIN Executive Authority, Chief Perry Bellegarde. We hope the following will help you understand our situation and why we were forced to take our issues to court.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who can be a member in the FSIN?
Any First Nation within Saskatchewan can decide to be a member of FSIN.
In FSIN’s 2007 Treaty Governance Treaty Implementation document they state that their “mission is to serve and benefit every citizen of every First Nation in a fair and just manner based upon our distinct cultures, laws and customs according to the Spirit and Intent of Treaty”.
Do you have to be a recognized band under the Indian Act to join FSIN?
No not according to the FSIN Convention. Our sovereignty is determined by our own laws and inherent rights. There are a number of First Nations who are members of FSIN and not recognized by the Indian Act that went through the same process that Kaministikominahiko-skak Cree Nation has gone through.
What is the FSIN Convention?
The FSIN Convention is like a road map that sets out the rules and expectations for membership conduct.
The FSIN Convention is an agreement that all First Nations sign when they become members. When members sign the Convention they join as a Sovereign Nation and agree to stand together (united) as a group of Saskatchewan First Nations to speak out for their Inherent and Treaty Rights nationally and internationally.
What are the rules for FSIN membership conduct?
The rules for FSIN membership conduct are based upon each First Nation’s right to Sovereignty. This is also called “Political Autonomy” and “Nationhood”. Sovereignty simply means that no one else has the right to tell another First Nation what to do or how to conduct its business.
Do the FSIN Convention rules and expectations apply to FSIN Chief and Council?
Yes. The FSIN Chief, Executive Council, Senate and any other group within the FSIN must all follow the rules set out in the FSIN Convention.
How does the FSIN decide if a First Nation can become a member of FSIN? What are the criteria for membership?
To join the FSIN an individual First Nation:
a. must be part of a larger First Nation i.e. Cree Nation, Dakota Nation etc
b. must be party to signing Treaty
c. must have their membership’s permission (must have a vote and pass a resolution to join)
What are the steps to become a member of the FSIN?
1. Once the First Nation membership passes a vote to join the FSIN, the Chief of that Nation sends an official request to FSIN Chief and Executive Council/Indian Government Commission.
2. The request is reviewed and discussed. The Chief of the First Nation requesting membership may be asked to provide information to clarify any questions related to membership criteria.
3. The Indian Government Commission then votes based upon the criteria established for membership. It is a non-political impartial body that examines the facts in the vetting process.
4. If the request for membership is approved by a vote (vetted) a resolution is passed and the First Nation is accepted as a member.
5. The final step is the official signing of the FSIN Convention agreement at the next FSIN general assembly. The formal signing is officially arranged by the Clerk of the Council and carried out by the Assembly Speaker.
Did you follow all the proper steps to become a member?
Yes. We followed all the proper steps.
In April 2001 our membership passed a resolution to join the FSIN. In September 2009 our membership was unanimously (100%) approved by the Indian Government Commission and a resolution was passed for us to sign the FSIN Convention at the Fall Assembly in 2009. But at that Assembly our membership was taken off the agenda by the Assembly Speaker because Cumberland House Cree Nation Chief objected to our membership.
This should not have been allowed - it was a violation of the FSIN Convention and our rights to Sovereignty and Political Autonomy. It’s been 5 years now we have been trying to get the last step completed. The law suit was a last resort.
Why won’t the Chief and Executive Council of FSIN complete the last step to make your membership official?
They are telling us that we need to be recognized under the Indian Act and that they must protect the interests of the Cumberland House Cree Nation.
They are ignoring the official (lawful) decision made by the Indian Government Commission in 2009. They are ignoring our rights to sovereignty and political autonomy. They are breaking the FSIN Convention rules and the very principles of traditions upon which the FSIN was founded to defend the Inherent and Treaty rights of all First Nations.
Why did you launch a law suit?
We needed to stand up for our rights as a Cree Nation to join the FSIN.
We were lawfully accepted as an FSIN member in September of 2009. We have sent many official letters, over the past 5 years, asking FSIN Chiefs to carry out the last step for our membership with the signing of the Convention.
In September 2013 we sent a letter of Intent to Chief Bellegarde of our membership’s decision to take this to court. He did not take us seriously.
Why did you name Chief Bellegarde in the law suit?
Chief Perry Bellegarde, as current leader (executive authority) of the FSIN, is legally accountable to fulfill his duties in ensuring completion of the legally vetted decision by the Indian Government Commission for our membership in the FSIN.
Are you suing all of the First Nations who are members in the FSIN?
No. This law suit has nothing to do with the member nations of FSIN. We do not intend to take anything away from the rights of other FSIN member Nations. We want the FSIN to defend all the treaty rights of First Nations, the principle it was founded on.
It has to do with Chief Bellegarde not doing things properly and ignoring our requests for action. We are asking that Chief Bellegarde complete the last step of our membership by arranging a signing of the FSIN Convention.
Because this delay has been going on for so long (5 years), we have not been able to receive the support from FSIN we are entitled to support and build our community.
Why did you take your law suit to provincial court?
FSIN operates as a non-profit organization incorporated under provincial laws. Our legal issue is with
FSIN is not following its own rules as an organization regulated under provincial laws. Our law suit was a last resort.
Why are you asking for so much money?
We are asking for what is owed to us since 2009 as a member Nation by the FSIN organization. We are asking for compensation because this should never have happened. We have been denied resources that would help our people. We have been denied support for our Inherent and Treaty Rights.
We are not asking for compensation to come from the member Nation’s funding. We do not want money that would have been properly designated for other First Nations in the FSIN.
What we want is only the money that the Kaministikominahiko-skak Cree Nation would have received as a member Nation, so we can deliver the programs, advocacy for our treaty rights, and improve the lives of our people like other First Nations.
The FSIN is a political organization, but its Members Nations operate a trust with an annual budget of approximately 40 million dollars. SIGA has also generated over 600 million dollars of revenue for the member Nations of the FSIN. There are established formulas for this allocation. None of this money has gone to the Kaministikominahiko-skak Cree Nation to support its people or defend its inherent and treaty rights.
The misconduct is by Chief and Executive Council in not living up to the FSIN founding principles, so they are the ones who are being sued.
Why is it so important for you to be a member of the FSIN?
The Founding Chiefs and Nations who established the FSIN had a vision for a better future for our people and worked hard to create what is now known as FSIN. It was founded upon our traditional governing practices and an obligation to protect the inherent and treaty rights of all Saskatchewan First Nations.
We believe in the founding principles of the 1982 FSIN Convention. We believe in holding FSIN Executive accountable for its commitment to Nationhood autonomy, their duty to respect our sovereign status as a Cree Nation and their obligations to advance our Treaty and Inherent Rights. We believe the Kaministikominahiko-skak Cree Nation's current actions will strengthen FSIN and return it to its founding principles.
Chief John Dorion