The Cumberland House Cree Nation says it's taking steps to protect one of its most valuable assets, the Saskatchewan River Delta.
In a news release shared on Thursday, Cumberland House Cree Nation Chief Rene Chaboyer said that in doing so, his nation was taking steps toward economic sovereignty.
"The impoverished state of our nation is perpetuated by legislative agenda of the settler society directed at our people," the statement said. "This can no longer be tolerated."
The statement said Cumberland House Cree Nation, located roughly 240 kilometres east of Prince Albert, developed its own laws and mechanisms under its own terms to protect its sacred gathering place Kitaskīnaw, the Saskatchewan River Delta.
The nation's statement said the new Cumberland House Cree Nation Declaration on Jurisdiction and Protection of Kitaskīnaw would determine policy on economic development and protection of the delta.
The declaration, which the nation's statement said aligned with its law of sharing the land, was built upon a larger declaration around natural resources contained within Treaty 5, of which Cumberland House Cree Nation is a signatory.
The nation said it is willing to work with other jurisdictions around permitting and licensing for work — and to conserve — the delta area, the statement said.
The delta, the statement said, is one of the land's greatest gifts. It had long been central to the nation's survival, way of life and connection to everything.
"It is also central to the exercise of our Aboriginal and Treaty Rights. It is the heart of the Boreal Forest; its western source and many tributaries sustain life in the Kitaskīnaw," the statement said.
On Thursday, Chaboyer said the band was asserting its inherent right to sovereignty in creating the declaration and that he would have liked to have it seen done 150 years ago.
Organizations support motion
The Cumberland House Cree Nation's move was announced during celebrations dubbed "Delta Day" by the Saskatchewan chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.
Executive director Gord Vaadeland said he didn't have much to offer on top of what Chief Chaboyer outlined.
Aaron Kuchirka, executive director of Cumberland Wood Products, a partner with the Cree Nation, also threw its support behind the nation's actions.
"All people that live and invest in this area wish to share in its gifts without compromising the ecosystem services the delta provides today and into the future," Kuchirka said.
Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) Vice Chief Heather Bear, who oversees the organization's lands portfolio, was also present on Thursday and said the delta is "an incredibly unique, life-giving ecosystem."
She said the delta must be protected and that FSIN would offer its full support in efforts to do so — and in efforts to reclaim traditional laws and systems.