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Prime Minister signs historic land claim settlement with Siksika First Nation


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the chief of the Siksika First Nation have signed a historic land claim settlement, which the federal government says is one of the largest agreements of its kind in Canada.

Trudeau and Marc Miller, minister of Crown-Indigenous relations, participated in a signing ceremony Thursday with Chief Ouray Crowfoot, council and community members.

"We're gathered today to right a wrong from the past," Trudeau said during the ceremony.

"We're gathered to give ourselves a chance to start rebuilding trust between us, nation to nation."

The federal government said the settlement dates back more than a century when Canada broke its Blackfoot Treaty promise and took almost half of Siksika Nation's reserve land, including some of its agricultural lands, to sell to people who settled in the area.

The agreement provides $1.3 billion in compensation to Siksika Nation to resolve outstanding land claims, which include about 46,500 hectares of Siksika's Reserve and certain mineral rights taken by Canada.

Trudeau said it's important to move forward as partners with Indigenous people.

"This settlement will enable you to invest in your priorities like infrastructure, education and supports for Elders and youth," he told those gathered. "It will create new economic, social and cultural opportunities."

Crowfoot said the settlement doesn't make up for past wrongs, but it will make a difference in people's lives.

"Canada needs to stop using the word reconciliation. You will never reconcile, you will never make it whole," he said.

"This land claim -- $1.3 billion, that's a lot of money -- it will never make it whole of what it was before. But we've got to move forward. What the $1.3 (billion) can do is provide opportunities, opportunities we didn't have before.

"I do see the tide turning for Siksika. I see us becoming a thriving nation."

Siksika's website says each member of the First Nation is to receive $20,000 in July as part of the settlement.

Siksika Nation includes approximately 8,000 members.

Elder nation members told CTV news they want the true history of their people to be shared.

"These things happened to my people and it's my wish to go out there and tell our story and people listen," said Angeline Ayoungman.

Young nation members say they are optimistic that this progress will benefit future generations.

"It's a big thing for me because I can tell my daughter about this historic moment that happened here," said Tasheena Black Kettle.

"You know it can be very beneficial for a lot of people you know it can mean getting a new vehicle, being able to go to college, getting a better experience, getting a better chance at life," said Desmond Pelly.

He later added, "It's a light at the end of a dark tunnel for a lot of people that are struggling with poverty."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 2, 2022.

-- with files from Bill Graveland and Colette Derworiz in Calgary Top Stories

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