Alta. First Nation compensated for cattle herd mismanagement

A claim of government mismanagement of the Blood Tribe cattle herd from 1894 to 1923 has been addressed with a $150 million settlement from the federal government’s crown-Indigenous relations department.

Federal minister Carolyn Bennett inked the settlement July 4, as did Blood Tribe Chief Roy Fox. Band members had already agreed to the deal in a vote held in March.

The settlement is compensation for the handling of the tribe’s cattle herd by what was then the federal Department of Indian Affairs.

Reservation land was overgrazed, non-natives were allowed to use the land and cattle were sold for less than their market value, according to the claim. The matter has been the subject of negotiation since 2011.

“Settling claims with our partners — through dialogue, away from the courts — is the best way forward,” said Bennett in a news release.

“This settlement, achieved in a true spirit of partnership and renewal, is a key step toward healing and reconciliation with the Blood Tribe. It helps to right past wrongs and pave the way to a better future for First Nation community members for many generations to come.”

Fox said later that each Blood Tribe member in southern Alberta will receive $2,000 and the rest could be used to rebuild Red Crow College, which burned down in 2016 and has been operating from other facilities since then.

“We need to ensure that we correct the wrongs that were done to our people and we appreciate the work you have done on this matter,” Fox said to Bennett.

“In that spirit, we hope to have the same success with other land claims and initiatives that are in progress now.”

That was likely a reference to a June 12 federal court decision about the “Big Claim” made by the Blood Tribe. The court ruled that the Blood Tribe was entitled to additional land under the terms of Treaty 7 signed in 1877.

The ruling indicated the government had underestimated the number of tribe members at the time of treaty signing, which affected the agreement to provide one sq. mile of land for every five tribe members.

That ruling means the reserve should be 162.5 sq. miles instead of the current 547.5 sq. miles. Fox said the band might seek compensation in lieu of the land.

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