Flying Dust First Nation to join Land Management regime

by Phil Ambroziak

The votes have been tallied and the ayes have it.

Following a two-day vote held June 20-21, Flying Dust First Nation band members are in favour of joining the First Nation Land Management regime. It’s a move that will allow Flying Dust to opt out of land-related sections of the Indian Act and enact their own laws pertaining to conservation, use and development in an effort to invest in the future of the community.

“As a First Nation that thrives for its own independence in terms of self-determination and self-efficiency, we need jurisdiction and authority over our lands,” explained Flying Dust First Nation chief Robert Merasty. “We don’t have a lot of investment capacity, but we do have a lot of land and a lot of business knowledge.”

The First Nation Land Management Act is a federal law enacted in 1999. It provides signatory First Nations the authority to make laws in relation to reserve lands, resources and the environment. First Nations under the Land Management Act also have the authority to create their own system for making reserve land allotments to individual First Nation members, as well as the authority to deal with various property interests or rights.

“We want to be independent and autonomous, and a big part of achieving this is putting our own legislation in place – this is one of the first key pieces of legislation we need,” Merasty continued. “The First Nation Land Management Act will replace 34 sections of the Indian Act and will address the specific processes we have to follow whenever we want to do anything with our land.”

According to Darwin Derocher, director of land resources at Flying Dust, the new regime will replace federal legislation more than 100 years old.

“We’re replacing it with our own – with something that was created in our community, not by a bunch of folks in Ottawa who don’t know what it’s like to live at Flying Dust,” Derocher said.

Meanwhile, Merasty went on to say the Land Management Act has been ratified by 36 other First Nations throughout Canada.

“Every one of them has been very successful in terms of exerting their independence, as well as in terms of meeting socio-economic needs of their respective communities,” he said. “We’re working toward building our own revenue stream. We’re not sitting around. We’re taking the bull by the horns and building for our future.”

Merasty also mentioned the long-term efforts to establish an oil and gas project on Flying Dust’s land holdings near Estevan. Through Treaty Land Entitlement, Flying Dust was able to purchase more than 900 acres in the southeast corner of the province, a process that took seven years for the federal government to sign off on.

“We’ve been waiting for all kinds of bureaucratic red tape,” he said. “For years, the Indian Act has been a barrier to First Nations people looking to do business, but now it’s out of the equation. The Land Management Act will do so much for us in terms of meeting the socio-economic gap many First Nations face.”


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