The federal government has made a national apology to a Saskatchewan First Nation community for a scheme that breached treaty and fiduciary agreements by creating a farm colony that took over the nation's land and contributed to the assimilation of Indigenous people.
Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller is at the Peepeekisis Cree Nation on the reserve, just northwest of Balcarres, Sask., to deliver the apology on behalf of the federal government.
"On behalf of the Government of Canada, I am truly sorry for the harm, trauma, and significant loss in agricultural land the community of Peepeekisis Cree Nation has experienced due to Canada's role in the File Hills Colony Scheme," Miller said in a news release on Wednesday.
"Acknowledging our past wrongs and addressing them is critical to building trust, and renewing and improving our relationship with Indigenous Peoples."
Peepeekisis Chief Francis Dieter says he welcomes the apology from the government.
"Today is one step of many steps towards reconciliation," Dieter said.
The Cree nation previously agreed to a $150-million federal settlement in August 2021 that covered Canada's breach of obligations, including transferring and settling residential school graduates onto the nation's land in 1898 as well as selling off "prime agricultural Peepeekisis reserve lands," according to the federal government release. Both were done without the Cree nation's consent.
The settlement allowed the nation the option to acquire nearly as much as 18,720 acres of land to be added to its reserve land.
Dieter says he hopes the funds from the settlement will help address the social ills and to purchase even more land for the community and development projects.
According to the nation's website, the File Hills Colony aimed to create "an agrarian First Nation and [assimilate] Aboriginals into the colonial farming lifestyle."
"The Colony was meant to encourage pupils who graduated from residential school to abandon traditional ways of life and permanently adopt a non-Aboriginal homesteading farmer lifestyle," the website reads.