At the same time First Nations and natural resources are at the forefront of many minds, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) is looking to warn international resource business away from Saskatchewan.
The province has been making a hard push toward more trade, and has been opening international offices, going on trade missions, and trying entice international investment, often with an eye toward the province’s natural resources.
The FSIN has been fighting over land and resource rights and treaty rights for years, and said that during these trade trips the province has been misleading foreign industry leaders about who really owns the resources in Saskatchewan. Investors, the federation said, shouldn’t come to the province to extract natural resources.
“I think (potential investors) should be concerned and that their investments are unstable when you’re looking at the instability and the unrest in this region when it comes to land and minerals,” explained FSIN Vice-Chief Heather Bear.
Bear said the spirit and intent of the treaties was to share the land up to the depth of a plow, about six inches, and that First Nations didn’t give up their rights to the land below that, which is where the vast majority of natural resources are found.
First Nations have been absolutely excluded from the table on resource issues, said Bear, and she called it greedy.
“When you look at these critical minerals, they exist in our ancestral lands, our traditional territories, on our First Nations, and I think it’s disrespectful and it’s dishonourable, quite simply put,” said Bear.
Bear said the FSIN wants true inclusion and resource revenue sharing.
“It’s not about taking everything; it’s about upholding our treaties when we said we would agree to share,” she explained.
Bear said she’s also frustrated over the selling off of Crown lands, which she said were set aside for traditional uses and provide for the growth of First Nations populations.
“This isn’t what we agreed on. You’re selling off Crown land left and right. You’re throwing up legislation and clearly and simply those are all infringements on our treaty rights to hunt, fish and gather, and they’re putting those rights at stake,” said Bear.
In a news release, FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron said the federation won’t accept companies coming into their backyard to extract the riches from the ground without including First Nations – adding that First Nations’ inherent and treaty rights are enshrined in international law.
The federation said it’s “mobilizing” to make foreign interests aware that getting Saskatchewan’s resources isn’t as simple as the provincial government seems to claim, though it declined to elaborate on what mobilization was underway when asked.