Alta. First Nation wins land claim

A June 12 federal court has ruled that a land claim made by southern Alberta’s Blood Tribe is legitimate and that it is entitled to additional land under the terms of Treaty 7 signed in 1877.

Details of the case, dubbed the Big Claim by the Blood tribe, indicate the tribe was entitled to 710 sq. miles of land in southern Alberta but the current size of the reserve is 547.5 sq. miles.

That is based on terms of the Blackfoot Treaty, which was to provide one sq. mile of reserve land for every five members of the Blood tribe.

If the existing Blood reserve were to be expanded by 162.5 sq. miles, based on the recent court decision, it would take in the town of Cardston and part of Waterton Lakes National Park. The reserve is already the largest in Canada.

However, Federal Court judge Russel Zinn rejected Blood Tribe submissions that the band take over that property. Instead, further hearings will be scheduled to determine appropriate compensation.

The Blood reserve has about 200,000 acres of cultivated land, some of it farmed by band members and much of it farmed under lease or permit to farmers in the region. The tribe has been attempting to take a more active role in farming its lands over the last number of years.

In a news release announcing the court decision, the Blood tribe said it looks forward to resolution of the Big Claim, which has been embroiled in negotiations since 1980.

“The Blood tribe trusts that given the history of the Big Claim and the fact that both the ICC (Indian Claims Commission) and the federal court have found that the Blood tribe has a valid claim, that Canada will not be appealing this recent judgment and that there will be finality to this long outstanding treaty obligation.”

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