Treaty 8 law to ‘bring our children home’

Chiefs lead the way in the grand exit at the Treaty 8 Child Well Being Legislation Naming Ceremony on July 11 near Sucker Creek First Nation. Standing in the front, left-right, are Sucker Creek Chief Jim Badger, Rod Twin, of Swan River First Nation, and Treaty 8 Grand Chief Arthur Noskey.

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Treaty 8 First Nation chiefs and Elders from Treaty 8 communities met on July 11 at Willow Point near Sucker Creek First Nation to share their vision and ideas for the Treaty 8 Child Well Being Legislation at a naming ceremony.

Willow Point is the site where Treaty No. 8 was entered into on June 21, 1899.

“The focus of the developing legislation is to bring our children home,” Grand Chief Arthur Noskey says.

“We are in a place where we can make our own laws to keep our children and raise them in a loving and caring environment that existed prior to Treaty.”

Many children were taken out of their Indigenous homes by federal and provincial governments under the Imperial Crown, he says.

“The Child Welfare Act of the province removes children from their communities and puts them up for adoption,” Noskey says.

“We didn’t give up our children under Treaty.”

Treaty 8 communities will draft their own legislation first.

“It will take some time,” Noskey says.

Following that, legislation will be drafted for Treaty 8.

“This is the beginning of drafting a law,” Noskey says as he spoke to the crowd.

“We’re excited about the future of our children.”

He says the legislation will be under Treaty 8 government.

“The legislation is based on our sovereign position,” Noskey says.

“It takes a sovereign nation [Treaty 8] to enter a treaty agreement with another sovereign nation [Imperial Crown].

“We want to hold government accountable.”

“Treasuring Our Children” was the theme chosen for the document.

But a name for the legislation could not be finalized because it is difficult to interpret the meaning in the Cree and Dene languages, Noskey says.

He adds many rights and promises were guaranteed in Treaty No. 8.

“Some of the promises included health care, education, cows and plows if we wanted to farm so we could live off the land and a promise of housing,” Noskey says.

The name will be taken into ceremony at the Treaty 8 annual general meeting in Fort Vermilion from July 26-28, says Loretta Bellerose, CAO for Treaty 8 Urban Child and Family Services.

“Once the ceremony is completed, we can begin our community meetings with the members,” Bellerose says.

“After the Treaty 8 members have provided their input into the law, the Treaty 8 chiefs will review, revise and ratify.”

She says Treaty 8 families have suffered for a long time by the provincial government.

“Alberta Children’s Services has been in place for decades, apprehending our children, placing with non-Indigenous families, selling our children [Sixties Scoop], adoptions, severing cultural, community and family connection that are integral to our spirit and well being as a people,” Bellerose says.

“Our families have been impacted by intergenerational trauma as a result of residential schools.

“This contributed to our family systems broken, cultural genocide, loss of identity, addictions, suicide, and many more social injustices.”

Treaty 8 is the largest Treaty in Canada and extends to British Columbia, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories.

Treaty 8 Child Well Being Legislation was discussed at a naming ceremony at Willow Point near Sucker Creek. Left-right, are Sucker Creek First Nation Chief Jim Badger, Dene Tha First Nation Chief James Ahnassay, Treaty 8 Grand Chief Arthur Noskey, event committee member Sucker Creek First Nation Councillor Noella Willier, Peerless-Trout First Nation Chief Gladys Okemow [Grand Chief of Treaty 8 Child and Family Services] and Loretta Bellerose, CAO for Treaty 8 Urban Child and Family Services.

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