A land claim settlement between the Siksika Nation and the Government of Canada resolving a longstanding dispute over lands near Castle Mountain in Banff National Park have officially been concluded.
While details of the settlement have been reported before, it was this month that representatives from the Siksika Nation and officials with Parks Canada and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada signed a settlement after each side accepted its terms.
In March, Siksika Nation voted to ratify the settlement agreement for a specific claim regarding Castle Mountain and in August officials in Ottawa ratified it. The settlement includes $123 million in financial compensation and an option for the Siksika to purchase on the open market up to 17,941 acres of land outside the boundaries of the national park and apply to have the lands added to its reserve. It also provides economic opportunities inside Banff National Park and ongoing access for cultural, traditional and educational purposes.
“The roots of the Siksika Nation run deep in Alberta’s plains and mountains,” said Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna. “Today, their history and culture are recognized through this claim settlement. It strengthens the relationship between Parks Canada and the Siksika Nation – and by doing so, reaffirms Canada’s commitment to reconciliation.
“We will continue working with Indigenous communities across the country in the spirit of reconciliation, and to protect our natural and cultural heritage for future generations.”
The agreement comes after decades of negotiations between First Nations and the federal government, having commenced only after it became legal in Canada for Indigenous people to retain lawyers and seek redress in court for land claims and holding the government to agreements it made with Indigenous peoples with treaties.
It is a settlement agreement that compensates for the use of land located at Castle Mountain that was set aside in the 1880s as a timber berth for the use and benefit of the Siksika and was part of Treaty 7, which was signed by the government and the Blackfoot. The basis of the claim is that those particular lands, 70 square kilometres, were then wrongfully taken in 1911 from the Siksika when the Castle area was added to Banff National Park, called Rocky Mountain Park at the time.
Siksika Nation Chief Joe Weasel Child, as part of the announcement of the settlement being concluded, said 25 years ago traditional horse rides from Siksika to Castle Mountain were restarted and this year that tradition will celebrate a new beginning.
“As one of our last untouched sacred sites, Siksika will be working collaboratively with Parks Canada to share a unique Northern Blackfoot culturally based eco-tourism experience with all Canadians and tourists from all over the world,” Weasel Child said.
“As Canada celebrates the 150th anniversary of Confederation, it should be noted that the Blackfoot Treaty of 1877 enabled completion of the CPR and Confederation. Other important contributions the Blackfoot people have made to Canada includes protection of what is now Western Canada from the USA by entering into the 1855 Blackfoot – USA Peace Treaty, or Lame Bull Treaty, long before Canada was a country and before the international border existed.
“Now, with this settlement agreement the Siksika Nation will continue to protect the environment and all living things placed here by the creator for the beneficial interest and education of generations of Canadians yet to come.”