Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller delivered an apology on behalf of the federal government to a Saskatchewan First Nation for an “experiment in radical social engineering” that forced a farming colony on the community’s land.
“The historic harm caused by the colony’s scheme goes far beyond the transfer of prime land. It created divisions in the community,” Miller said in Peepeekisis Cree Nation, in southeastern Saskatchewan, Wednesday.
The First Nation was home to the File Hills Colony, which is a little acknowledged part of Canada’s residential school history.
The colony was established in 1897 by the local Indian agent and continued until 1954. As part of the scheme, residential school graduates from Manitoba and elsewhere in Saskatchewan were transferred onto the Cree Nation’s land without the community’s consent and often under pressure.
Miller says Canada’s actions breached its fiduciary duty to Peepeekisis and failed to protect the nation’s interest in the land.
“For this we are deeply sorry,” said Miller, who also spoke in Cree.
The actions also led to a loss of culture, Miller added. The Indian agent restricted access to land, limited household visits and forbade powwows, dances and other ceremonies.
The First Nation agreed to a $150-million federal settlement last year and the option to add more reserve land.
Peepeekisis Chief Francis Dieter said the colony caused harm, trauma and disruption in the way of life of community members.
It displaced people in Peepeekisis from their own lands, and also forced residential graduates away from their home communities and nations, Dieter added.
“The File Hills Colony Scheme left a legacy of division,” Dieter said in a news release.
“However through the recent settlement and the acknowledgment of its wrongdoing, Canada’s apology to our nation and our people, can allow us to move forward on our path to healing our nation and becoming one people of Peepeekisis.”
– Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press