Carry the Kettle First Nation is suing the federal government and Saskatchewan over development that infringes on their members' treaty right to hunt and gather.
Carry the Kettle First Nation (CTK), about 100km east of Regina, filed the lawsuit in late December.
"When we first signed treaties in 1877... there was an obligation there by the federal government that we would maintain our way of life," said Chief Elsie Jack.
"The federal government has not kept their end of the deal, as well as the provincial government," she said.
Chief Carry the Kettle and Chief Man Who Took the Coat, both brothers, as well as Chief Long Lodge, signed adhesion to Treaty 4 in 1877 on behalf of their tribes, which are now known as Carry the Kettle First Nation.
Under the treaty, Carry the Kettle and his descendants were promised rights to maintain their way of life, which included the right to hunt, fish, trap and gather.
Jack said she wants people of the province and the rest of Canada to understand the legal obligations that pertain to treaty within the scope of the National Resources Transfer Agreement (NRTA).
The NRTA was signed in 1930 and provided the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta jurisdiction over Crown lands and natural resources in the parcel of land purchased from the Hudson's Bay Company in 1870.
The Province of Saskatchewan is named in the lawsuit because of the NRTA.
No land for hunting
According to JFK Law, the firm representing CTK's case, no land exists for hunting on traditional territory related to the reserve.
"These promises that were made induced Carry the Kettle to sign into treaty with Canada," said Estella White, a lawyer with JFK Law.
"Saskatchewan has authorized so much development that [members of] Carry the Kettle can't actually exercise those rights and it's actually impractical to do so."
White said the reserve is surrounded by farmland and members of CTK have to travel great distances to exercise their treaty right to hunt.
According to White, few cases like it have gone to court in Canada.
CTK is seeking an injunction that would prevent Canada and Saskatchewan from authorizing more development on their traditional territory before they address issues raised by the reserve.
White said that historically Carry the Kettle's traditional territory extended beyond the borders of Saskatchewan, but in the context of the lawsuit the term traditional territory is referring only to the southern parts of the province of Saskatchewan.
CTK is requesting a declaration that will force the governments to consult the First Nation before any new development on Carry the Kettle's traditional territory. The lawsuit is also asking Canada and Saskatchewan to work with CTK to restore and secure the meaningful exercise of CTK's treaty rights now and into the future.
White said that although the reserve is also seeking financial compensation due to damages for failure to uphold treaty rights, money is not the motivator.
The provincial government said in an email it has recently received the First Nation's Statement of Claim. It said it will review the allegations and prepare a Statement of Defence.