A First Nation in Saskatchewan with the longest name in the country has closed the chapter on its 25-year-old legal battle over land that was stolen in 1905.
In March, the federal government and Mosquito Grizzly Bear’s Head Lean Man (MGBHLM), agreed to a settlement worth $141 million – plus interest—a deal that was finalized in May.
A ruling by the Specific Claims Tribunal in January offered the First Nation $127 million which was declined.
“What happened was we submitted a judicial review but at the same time we sent a letter to the minister, Carolyn Bennett, expressing our disappointment and some of the factors that should have been considered,” said Chief Tanya Aguilar-Antiman who added that it wasn’t enough money for the amount of land that was taken, about 6,500 hectares (16,000 acres).
Expert studies supported a much higher amount she said.
Aguilar-Antiman filed a review of the decision with the Federal Court of Appeal.
Specific claims stem from historical grievances from First Nations around the mismanagement of trust funds by Ottawa and the loss of lands.
The tribunal was formed in 2008 by former prime minister Stephen Harper who said at the time it was an effort to move claims, which had bogged down at the negotiating table, forward.
It has the authority to award First Nations up to $150 million in compensation.
The tribunal has received 131 claims since 2011, the majority of which are in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan. Ninety-four remain unresolved according to the tribunal.
Ron Maurice, the lawyer working with the First Nation since 2004, said the MGBHLM surrender in 1905 was fraudulent.
“Crown at the time took a vote from what at that time was three separate bands,” Maurice told APTN News.
According to Maurice, the Crown allowed Mosquito members who outnumbered the other bands, Grizzly Bear’s Head and Lean Man to vote on the surrender of lands belonging to Grizzly Bear’s Head and Lean Man.
“There was an illegal amalgamation or an illegal surrender as well as breaches of the Crown’s fiduciary duties in terms of the process they followed including allowing government officials to purchase the lands at significantly less than market value so they could earn a profit from the resale,” said Maurice.
The three bands amalgamated in 1949.
Aguilar-Antiman said she’s happy with the decision.
“Finally, one of the most beautiful things I really want to emphasize is we never surrendered the land,” said Aguilar-Anitman.
The First Nation plans to put the compensation into an independently managed trust to provide a steady source of income. The money will also be used for housing, education and Elder and youth initiatives.
Maurice said the community has “finally received a fair and just award. We applaud the current chief and council, and the previous chiefs and councils and Elders for their patience and dedication to this Claim.
“In recognition of our long-standing relationship with Mosquito Grizzly Bear’s Head Lean Man First Nation, Maurice Law has committed to donate $2,820,000 to the First Nation over the next ten years. We understand that the First Nation will use these charitable donations to support recreation, youth, and other important initiatives for the benefit of the community.”
The $141 million in compensation to MGBHLM is the largest sum the tribunal has awarded.