For most, an administrative error is a minor annoyance – but the Gladue family on Enoch Cree Nation outside Edmonton says it cost them their land and a trust fund worth nearly $1 million.
The issue stems from a letter an Indian agent wrote in December 1940.
Roberta Gladue spent months doing research into her family history. She has now spent years trying to correct the records.
“My kids would ask me ‘where are you going mom – to the provincial archives?’ and they know I would spend the majority of the day here researching records of our ancestry,” said Roberta.
From her house, she is able to see the land that used to belong to her family. They’re been unable to live there since they were children.
“We lived along the bush line a bit further in the back,” she told APTN News.
She started this journey in 2017 after her grandfather, John Baptiste Yellowcalf, died. She realized there were issues with the family records.
As she takes out a family photo album she said she’s a bit of a family historian. The pictures are of the land that her family used to live on.
“My dad loved to take pictures. People ask us, ‘were you the only family with a camera?’” Roberta said as she pulls out pictures of her as a child, playing on her family property. Her family, Leland Gladue and Joseph Steven Gladue and sister Noella Gladue sit around her, looking at photos of themselves growing up.
The Gladue family used to be six in total before their oldest brother Perry passed away in 2021.
The land the surviving members are looking at in old photos is now Enoch nation’s powwow grounds.
Watch Part 1 of Danielle’s TV story here:
The problem, Roberta said, is the last name.
“Our other family name is Yellowcalf. It is on my dad’s residential school records,” said Roberta.
Her father’s school records were under Joseph Alphonse Gladue Yellowcalf. Gladue was his mother Marie’s maiden name. As an illegitimate child, the term used at the time, he wasn’t given his father’s last name.
Reclaiming that name has also been very important to the family. In Perry’s obituary, he is listed as Perry Lorne Gladue Yellowcalf.
“We were told there are no Yellowcalfs in the area. But here we are,” said Leland.
Roberta said her family was moved off the land when she was a child. They lived in a trailer for a time after that.
Roberta said the fight for recognition has been difficult.
“We want that land back. We want that land transferred to us,” said Roberta.
Across the highway from her home is land that her grandfather lived on.
Driving in one of her brother’s large red trucks, Roberta showed APTN one of the two family properties they used to own through Certificates of Possession.
Under the Indian Act, a certificate of possession is like buying stock in a company. It is “documentary evidence of a Band/First Nation member’s right to lawful possession of reserve lands described therein pursuant to the Indian Act” according to the Indian Lands Registration Manual produced by Indigenous Services Canada.
No one from Crown-Indigenous Relations or Indigenous Services Canada was made available to explain the process for issuing these certificates.
But Roberta said there are oil well sites there that aren’t documented at Indian Oil and Gas on her grandmother, Marie Bighead’s property.
Watch Part 2 of Danielle’s TV story here:
Roberta said there is a trust fund worth nearly a million dollars is also missing. Roberta has a document showing a lease agreement signed by her grandfather and Indian Affairs.
It is a part of the Indian Trust Fund, an account that holds all the moneys collected, received, or held by the Crown for the “use and benefit” of First Nations.
The Indian Trust exists today within the Consolidated Revenue Fund of Canada but according to the government of Canada website, Indigenous Services Canada manages the day-to-day operations.
“In 2019 I applied for Marie Bighead’s trust account. I did get a deposit June 17 of 2020. And they deposit $2.01 as a trial run,” said Roberta.
After that, they told her that the account was paid out.
“I’m thinking how can you pay it out when I only corrected who she was,” Roberta said.
Indigenous Services Canada said no one was available to speak to APTN about this and recommended that Roberta contact them directly. But she already has multiple times.
MAGA Energy Ltd.
In addition to the trust fund there’s an active lease agreement for the land her family used to own – but the money isn’t going to the Gladue family.
“So I wanted to see those records but now it is MAGA company that is claiming the royalties or the gas… what ever is under the ground there.”
APTN did reach out to MAGA Energy Ltd. (Make Alberta Great Again) about the lease agreements. APTN was giving the following statement from the vice president of operations, Mark Ross.
“The matter described in your email below is a private and legal matter between the Gladue’s and IOGC [Indian Oil and Gas Canada]. MAGA sends surface lease payments payable IOGC for each Enoch Cree Nation surface lease and has no record of the CO or CP holder that receives payments for surface leases from IOGC. That information is kept confidential by IOGC. MAGA has no further comments.
“Please do not disturb our land department with any further requests.”
Connection to the land
Roberta said she’s gone to great lengths to show her family’s connection to the land even getting the original documents from forestry and cross referencing them with other documents that sow her family land allotments.
In the process of trying to reclaim some of the land, other community members have said things that are not true, saying Roberta only married in to the community, or accusing her of “playing historian”.
To prove her claims, Roberta had to travel to Beaver Lake Cree Nation.
“To correct the documents, because my dad was registered in Beaver Lake, I went and brought the documents there to correct his identity as well.
“They started questioning me why is your dad registered here? I said Don’t ask me ask Indian registry,” said Roberta.
Roberta has asked the band council for a piece of her grandfather’s land to build her house on. So far, the Enoch Cree Nation leadership has not responded to multiple requests for comment.
One of her brother’s, Leland Gladue said he and his family felt ostracized by the community because of the perception that they are outsiders.
He said he “applauds his sister” for all of the work to prove their heritage.
“Our brother Perry gave her a nickname… Roberta Brockovich. That is what she does. She is doing it not just for us but everyone else out there,” said Leland.
He said he wonders how many families have gone through similar issues to due government errors.
“We were ostracized from this reserve, Enoch It hurts knowing we had to prove who we were,” said Leland.
He is also glad that Roberta has the documents to prove their claims.
“We can tell stories about who we are. But what we’re finding out through courts, you got to have documents now.”
Roberta said that it “hurt her” to lose her families inheritance and also grow up with her family being questioned as to why they lived there.
“I’ve cried many tears for the way [her grandparents] were just disrespected and not honored for who they are.”
She wipes tears away as she talks, sitting before a mountain of evidence that she has compiled.
“But, I did it.”