We Are All Treaty People

Peepeekisis Cree Nation ratifies land claim

  • Published - 14/12/2020
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  • Posted By - OTC
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The Office of the Treaty Commissioner celebrates with Peepeekisis Cree Nation as they ratify a land claim that has been in the works for more than 35 years.

A claim first filed in 1986 by former Chief Enock Poitras was looking for compensation for the mismanagement of reserve lands by Canada. This claim was subject to 16 years of missed commitments by the Government of Canada, over which time the Peepeekisis Cree Nation lost many of elders and, with the passing of each elder, there was more difficulty in marshaling its case.

In 2004, the Indian Claims Commission accepted the Peepeekisis and recommended that the Government of Canada negotiate a settlement. Another 16 years later, the Canadian Government agreed to a settlement of $150 million dollars to redress violating the rights of Peepeekisis First Nation’s Chief and Council, and surrendering over two-thirds of their reserved lands.

The community voted and ratified the claim on Dec. 11.

Ten years after the signing of Treaty Four in 1874, the Peepeekisis community settled on 26,624 acres adjacent to Okanese, Starblanket and Little Black Bear First Nations. Chief Peepeekisis died in 1889 and the Department of Indian Affairs refused to accept his son as chief and prevented the Peepeekisis First Nation from holding an election.

The Peepeekisis First Nation was without a chief until 1935, which allowed William M. Graham, who was the Indian Agent at the Qu’Appelle Agency, to create the File Hills farming colony on Peepeekisis lands.

In 1901 Graham received funds from the Department of Indian Affairs to create the colony and by 1906 he had removed 18,850 acres from the Peepeekisis Reserve.

This land was divided into 80 acre lots for graduates of the File Hills Boarding School and the Qu’Appelle Industrial School. Graham feared that when the graduates of these schools returned to their home reserves, they return to their traditional culture. So, he selected graduates to settle on lands in the colony, where they would be supported in farming.

Initially the File Hills Colony was deemed a success by the Department of Indian Affairs. By 1906 there were twenty families living in the colony, and over the next few years the colony quickly outnumbered the original Peepeekisis band members.

Graham maintained a tyrannical grip on the lives of the colonists. They were forbidden to interact with any Peepeekisis community members who adhered to their traditional culture, and participation in dances, ceremonies and even speaking Cree was banned.

Eventually the File Hills Colony disintegrated, and all the homes and barns have been destroyed or burned down and in 1927 Graham was forced to retire.

The violations to the rights of the Peepeekisis First Nation by the creation of File Hills Colony became the basis for the Specific Claim put before the Indian Claims Commission (ICC) in 1986.


Read More:
File Hills Colony: A Failed Experiment

Sask. First Nation votes to accept $150M settlement from the Government of Canada