Elders, chiefs, councillors and community members gathered together on June 29 on Bunibonibee Cree Nation (BCN) to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the signing of Treaty No. 5 by the Oxford House Band on July 29, 1909.
Sydney Garrioch, Grand Chief of the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) was on hand to talk about what Treaty No. 5 means and to remind the residents of BCN of their rights within the treaty.
The treaty recognizes the sovereignty of the Oxford House Band and the original aboriginal title to the traditional lands that are located within BCN. Garrioch says it's important to make sure the Crown honours the treaty relationship, saying that BCN's oral histories attest that its residents did not in fact surrender lands, waters and natural resources within their traditional territories to His Majesty the King of England at the time. He says elders say that the terms of Treaty 5 say that lands within the traditional territory of BCN would be shared forever between the First Nations people and others who enter their traditional land.
Garrioch also pointed out that within the terms of Treaty 5 there are treaty rights to the economic development of BCN; for residents to make a livelihood of hunting, trapping and fishing throughout traditional lands with provisions of ammunition and nets; to support agriculture and other economic ventures; and to establish and maintain schools.
According to Garrioch, it's important that all residents of BCN protect, assert and exercise their treaty rights. He points out that MKO says that the Natural Resources Transfer Agreement of 1930 is a violation of Treaty promises and that the Treaty members never consented to this change in the Treaty terms, and therefore must continue to demand that their consent is needed to change any terms of the Treaty. He says the Crown-First Nation consultation process is also an enforceable part of the treaty relationship, and First Nations need to us the Crown consultation process to give meaning to government-to-government relationships.
Garrioch says the next step in ensuring the treaty is respected is to ensure that resource revenue sharing, benefit sharing and resource access agreements are a condition of any government approvals or licences related to energy, water, mining and natural resource developments that fall within traditional lands. He says BCN is currently working to establish agreements as part of the resource Management Board and land use planning process.
Treaty 5 promises to exercise systems of governance and laws that reflect BCN's languages, customs, traditions, principles and beliefs; to deliver adequate education, health care and community services; to ensure citizens life in safe and adequate housing; to ensure residents continue to use, occupy and exercise stewardship over traditional lands; to protect fish, animal and plants within BCN lands; to exercise cultural and spiritual practices; to protect sacred sites, burial sites and medicine sites; and for the residents to enjoy an equitable sharing of the employment and wealth that arises from the use and development of BCN's lands, waters and natural resources. The treaty states that the relationship will be honoured "for as long as the sun shines, the grass grows and the waters flow."