First Nation interested in buying, leasing federal pastures

SASKATOON — Wayne Semaganis encouraged Saskatchewan pasture patrons last week to take a good look at his First Nation as a potential partner when federal community pastures change hands.


The chief of Little Pine, in the province’s northwest, said his First Nation is interested in buying some of the land through the Treaty Land Entitlement (TLE) claims process.


Little Pine has bought 52,000 acres since a 1992 TLE agreement was reached and is entitled to buy another 44,000 acres to satisfy its claim.


“We have over 85 patrons that lease Little Pine property that are non-First Nations,” Semaganis told a user meeting Jan. 23. “I can tell you right now that if Little Pine owned land, I would be able to, with my council, give anybody a 99-year lease.”


He said potential lessees shouldn’t be swayed by misconceptions about how First Nations do business.


“We do it on a business-like platform,” he said of Little Pine.


Semaganis hired a professional agrologist to handle land issues, including dealing with ranchers and energy companies. Lease rates are set according to area standards, and a chartered accountant looks after the finances.


Under the TLE process, land is bought through a willing seller-willing buyer arrangement. The occupants’ interest must be satisfied for a sale to proceed when crown land is selected.


The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations says 75 percent of patrons would have to approve a pasture sale. Semaganis said the provincial and federal governments have a legal responsibility to settle TLE issues, and First Nations should be first on the list of potential buyers if it is crown land. Legal challenges could be launched.


However, he said that isn’t a good way to do business.


“We’re not here to wrest something away from somebody,” he said. 


“We can work together.”