Muskeg Lake Cree Nation’s Journey to Inherent and Treaty-Based Self-Government

Our History of Self-Governance

Members of our Cree Nation have governed themselves for thousands of years, with complex governance systems that did not change with European contact. In 1876 our leader, Kitowehaw, signed Treaty 6 with the Crown on behalf of the Muskeg Lake Cree. The treaties in Saskatchewan are formal agreements between the Crown and First Nations that outline our shared expectations and obligations.

Muskeg Lake’s understanding was that Treaty 6 would formalize a government-to-government relationship with Canada. However, in the same year that our Treaty was signed, the federal government imposed the Indian Act on Muskeg Lake and other First Nations across Canada. This oppressive, colonial policy represented a significant departure from the sacred promises exchanged at the time of Treaty. It stripped away Muskeg Lake Cree Nation’s inherent governing powers and forced a form of government on our community that often did not address the needs of our people. After almost 150 years, the legacy of the Indian Act continues to contribute to the discrimination and inequality faced by our Nation for generations.

 

Exercising Our Inherent Right to Self-Determination

After years of litigation and sustained advocacy for reconciliation, it has been affirmed and recognized both by Canada and internationally that Indigenous peoples have the right to govern themselves in relation to:

  • –  Matters internal to their communities;
  • –  Matters integral to their unique cultures, customs, traditions, languages and institutions;
  • –  Matters related to their special relationship with the land and resources.
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Muskeg Lake Cree Nation has exercised, and continues to exercise, its inherent right to self-determination, which includes a right of self-government:

  • –  Recognized and affirmed in Articles 3 and 4 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
  • –  Recognized and affirmed by Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982;
  • –  Protected by Treaty 6 (1876); and
  • –  Being a fundamental precept of Nehiyaw natural law.
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Despite the imposition of the Indian Act, we have continued to exercise our self-governance rights through milestones such as:

  • –  The implementation of our own Membership Code (amended in 1999);
  • –  The establishment our Land Code in 2005 (amended in 2017);
  • –  The development of our Financial Administration Law in 2018;


Our Path to Self-Government

In 2023, Muskeg Lake Cree Nation signed a Letter of Understanding with Canada that outlines our agreed-upon approach to exercising our right to Inherent and Treaty-based self-government.

 

Today, we are negotiating a Self-Governance Agreement with Canada that will achieve self-government in a way that is rooted in our Cree law and culture. The next step on our path will be the implementation of our Self-Governance Agreement.

 

Once finalized and executed, Muskeg Lake Cree Nation’s laws will apply, and Canada and Saskatchewan will be required to give deference to those laws.  Some laws, such as the Constitution Act, 1982, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Human Rights Act, the Criminal Code, and other laws of general application will continue to apply to the Nation and its citizens.

What is a Self-Governance Agreement?

A Self-Governance Agreement is an agreement negotiated between the Nation and Canada through which the Nation exercises its inherent right of self-government.

 

The Self-Governance Agreement accomplishes the following:

  • –  Identifies the governing structures, jurisdictions, and authorities of the Nation.
  • –  Identifies core matters covered by the Nation’s jurisdiction that are internal to the Nation and essential to the operation of its government. In doing so, the Agreement addresses how the Nation’s jurisdiction over these matters will interact with federal and provincial jurisdiction.
  • –  Sets out accountability measures that must be adhered to, and specifies the roles and responsibilities of the parties in providing programs and services for the Nation’s citizens.
  • –  Defines the working relationships that the Nation will have with other levels of government, including our fiscal relations with various levels of government.
  • –  Outlines how the Nation will promote improved community well-being, and sets out other ways to further the goals of the parties.
 
 

Why do we need a Self-Governance Agreement?

A Self-Governance Agreement is essential to renewing the Nation-to-Nation relationship between Muskeg Lake and Canada based on the principles of respect, co-operation, partnership, and the recognition of our rights.

The Agreement will:

  • –  Advance meaningful recognition with our Nation.
  • –  Allow the Nation to better manage its own affairs by exercising jurisdiction and authority over certain matters while developing its own institutions.
  • – Strengthen the voices of community members by establishing clearly-defined roles, responsibilities and procedures that cannot be changed without the approval of citizens.
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  • – Restore and protect the Nation’s citizenship practices and protocols.
  • – Restore and protect the Nation’s systems for promoting and enhancing culture, customs, traditions, and language.
  • – Create the conditions needed to form new intergovernmental relationships with Canada and Saskatchewan.
  • –  Allow the Nation to design and implement programs that prioritize the well-being of its citizens. These programs will be tailored to the Nation’s unique culture and history, while still allowing us to participate in federal programs and services where the Nation has not taken back jurisdiction.
  • –  Give the Nation the financial credibility and accountability required to increase investor confidence and create partnerships that will strengthen our local economy.

Be a Part of our Journey to Inherent and Treaty-Based Self-Government

Active participation by Muskeg Lake citizens is essential to ensuring that the Self-Governance Agreement effectively reflects and advances our community’s needs and interests. Ultimately, Muskeg Lake’s Self-Governance Agreement must be approved by the Nation’s citizens through a community vote prior to implementation. 

 

We’re working to ensure all Muskeg Lake citizens have the opportunity to learn about Inherent and Treaty-based self-governance and can give feedback to inform our Self-Governance Agreement

You can share your thoughts on our approach to self-governance through our online survey:

 

Here are some upcoming opportunities for you to discuss self-government with our negotiating team:

Stay tuned for future meetings