Milton Tootoosis, second from left, waits for his turn to sign the Heart of Treaty 6 Reconciliation declaration as Florence Blois, left, a librarian at Onion Lake Cree Nation signs her name to the document at Lakeland College last Wednesday. GEOFF LEE LLS PHOTO
Treaty 6 Reconciliation has officially moved into the commitment to action phase.
A total of 18 partners of the Heart of Treaty 6 Reconciliation process signed a declaration to work together for the common good in a ceremony overseen by the Lieutenant-Governor of Saskatchewan W. Thomas Molloy at Lakeland College last Wednesday.
“The importance of being here as a representative of the Crown and the relationship between Indigenous people and treaties and the Crown is a very fundamental part of treaty making,” said Molloy, who represents the Crown in Saskatchewan.
“Treaties are made in the name of either her or his majesty the king or queen at the time, and treaties today are still made in the name of the Crown, so they have a very important relationship with the head of the state.”
Molloy flew to Lloydminster that morning to witness the group of individuals, community-based organizations, governments, faith communities, and businesses from Onion Lake Cree Nation, Lloydminster, Frog Lake First Nation, and Poundmaker Cree Nation sign the document.
It was done in the spirit of Treaty 6 entered into at Fort Pitt in 1876 with today’s partners agreeing on the need to develop stronger relationships and trust amongst the communities, organizations and individuals who make their home in the treaty territory.
Participants have been coming together since December 2016 to discuss reconciliation with the signing signalling a step forward from the past for Frog Lake First Nation.
“This signing means a lot to our nation; we’ve attempted in the past to branch out and have our voice heard,” said William Quinney, a member of Frog Lake council.
“The history of our nation is the Frog Lake massacre which has put us into a shell and closed off many opportunities for our people.”
During the North-West Rebellion in 1885, some Frog Lake Cree killed nine area settlers in the area over Chief Big Bear’s anger about what seemed to be an unfair treaty he signed in 1882 along with dwindling buffalo that sustained his people.
“What we’re trying to do is to break that shell,” said Quinney.
“We’re trying to get our kids and other towns and communities to know that we are ready; we’re willing to come out; we’re willing to work, to go to school; and to do great things to be partners in every sense of the word—that’s what reconciliation means to us.”
The signing celebration included a couple of pipe ceremonies and the singing of O Canada in Cree by young Onion Lake Cree Nation children.
The event was headed by Rhett Sangster from the Office of the Treaty Commissioner and included a vice regal party of local RCMP and firefighters welcoming Molloy and his party of officials.
As for what’s next for the Heart of Treaty 6 signatories, Molloy said that would be up to their members to develop the direction they wish to go.
“This is the beginning and there will be a much longer process that will follow and it’s up to the participants and the signatories to determine the next steps,” he said.