A lawsuit has been initiated by Dakota Tipi First Nation against the Government of Canada. Chief Dennis Pashe explains much of the community lives in poverty and occupies a very small acreage. He says they don't have funding for barely anything required to improve the community.
"I think the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry recommended that First Nations have their own justice system, but the Province's subsequent governments -- whether it's NDP in the past, or Conservatives -- don't want to let go of that," says Pashe. "Anything to do with the First Nations rights and so forth, there's this criminal code. We're saying, 'Well, you've used rights against us -- this criminal code -- to stop us and deny us from economic development of having gaming -- such as casinos.' Any kind of economic development is always stopped by the criminal code. It's always stopped by courts to deny us that right, to keep us in poverty, to keep us suffering, and to keep us from fighting for our rights."
He explains the court case they launched is their way of saying that they have rights as First Nations people for economic development.
"They've taken away our buffalo and they put us on these little reserves," continues Pashe. "They have us under the Indian Acts so that we couldn't have any economic activity. We couldn't get loans. We couldn't do anything without the Indian Agent, and it's all designed to keep us economically deprived and depressed."
Pashe says their resulting experiences have gone on and on for decades, and notes they're fighting back, and shouting out that they need to be part of the economic activities that are happening in this area. He notes htis includes CFB contracts with the federal government as well as with Hydro.
"We need to be involved and we need to be benefiting from it as a self-contributing government in providing services to our people," adds Pashe. "Southport's involved and there's economic activity happening there. The history of this land which has developed into present-day policy is based on misunderstanding and not an accurate history. So, we are looking at the accurate history of our people and exercising that history. It's got to be corrected. We can't be sitting back and continuing to live in depression and poverty. There's got to be a better outcome for our future generations."
He says the results of their dilemma include their children not succeeding in school, due to the poverty and not having an equal life. Pashe wants their lives to improve.
He describes their true history as always having been a part of what is now called Canada. Pashe explains the government has tried to say they were refugees from the United States, which wasn't the case.
Sioux Narrows and Sioux Lookout are places in Canada whose very names suggest their presence that extended up to the Niagara Falls area where they traded with the Mohawk people.
"The overall Dakota/Lakota/Nakota Nation is called the Oceti Sekowan, which was the territory that was Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan," says Pashe. "It was the heart of North America, but then the European settlers came in and created artificial boundaries, and stole our land resources, basically. And then they came up with their history saying, 'You guys are not from here.' I'm sorry to say that wherever the buffalo went, was our territory. We're also a woodlands people. That's how we had the names of areas called Sioux Narrows and Sioux Lookout, and so forth."
Pashe explains they don't have signed treaties of land termination, causing them to maintain that the land is unceded, and they still have the right to that title and this territory.
"Wherever the buffalo went, that's where we went," says Pashe. "That's why they killed 60 million buffalo and killed so many of our people to take our land and resources. We're still here. So, now, let's create these partnerships and see how we can move ahead and better all our lives. Cut down the jail costs, and cut down a lot of costs. We could become self-sufficient people as we once were at one time. That's our objective."
From this point in time, has says the issue is going through the court system, and Department of Justice with their negotiator and the country's negotiator to seek out a resolution. Pashe says they're looking to likewise benefit from federal contracts in this territory.
Pashe adds an apology was supposed to be given from the Prime Minister to the Dakota people a coupl eopf months ago, but recent wars overseas have put all of that on hold. He says they're still looking forward to that.
"We are approachable and negotiable. The things that we want to achieve for our people in the community, in the future, we want to move ahead in the future and in a good way," notes Pashe. "My nephew was killed in BC in a stolen car this summer. He didn't get to experience anything positive in his life. It was all negative, negative, negative. All these drugs make it worse in our communities. We need to have resources to deal with that."
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