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Federal government apologizes to Dakota, Lakota nations for historical mistreatment

Generations of Dakota and Lakota people have waited for an apology from the Canadian government. That apology came during an elaborate ceremony at the Whitecap Dakota First Nation near Saskatoon Monday.

“I could never erase the pain you have endured, [but] this is the right thing to do,” federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Gary Anandasangaree said during the event.

“We seek to mend this injustice with three simple words: we are sorry.”

The crowd of more than 500 elders, leaders and other First Nations people from across the North American plains region broke into loud cheers and applause.

Longtime Whitecap Chief Darcy Bear said this has been a long journey, but that he was glad the day finally arrived.

“Our ancestors have fought for this recognition,” Bear said. “We were treated differently.… We were left out.”

Bear turned to Anandasangaree and said the apology is only a start.

“We are going to be holding you accountable.”

Anandasangaree agreed that the government should be accountable.

“We hope we can remove this stain and begin the work of healing,” he said.

 Anandasangaree noted how these and other First Nations endured the pass system, residential schools, the Sixties Scoop and “and other racist policies that harmed Indigenous people.” He said these policies prevented First Nations from sharing in Canada’s economic prosperity.

Watch Anandasangaree’s apology here: 

Federal minister apologizes to Dakota, Lakota nations on behalf of Canada

8 hours ago

Duration 1:45

Federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Gary Anandasangaree delivered a formal apology on behalf of Canada to the 9 Dakota and Lakota First Nations in the country at Whitecap Dakota Nation Monday.

These and other injustices affected all First Nations people, but Monday’s apology was specifically about a policy that affected the Dakota and Lakota First Nations in Saskatchewan and Alberta.

They were designated as “refugees” by the federal government, because many Dakota and Lakota migrated from what is now the United States to escape oppression. Canada denied them many historic treaty benefits, but also left them out of major economic agreements such as the multi-million dollar Treaty Land Entitlement.

This happened even though many Dakota communities fought for the British against the United States during the War of 1812. There is also historical evidence that, at various times, there were Dakota settlements in the 18th and early 19th centuries in southern Saskatchewan, as well as Manitoba and northwest Ontario.

In the 1870s, and again in 2007, Ottawa rejected the claim of the Dakota and Lakota Nations that they should be included in the treaties that most Prairie First Nations already belong to, including the Indigenous rights to land.

Several men in formal dress and traditional Indigenos headwear.
Dignitaries during the grand entry for Monday’s event at Whitecap Dakota Nation near Saskatoon. (Liam Richards/The Canadian Press)

David Arnot, a Canadian senator and Saskatchewan’s former treaty commissioner, said the evidence for this apology is clear and compelling.

“You are no longer denied your rightful place at the table,” Arnot said. “You are nations whole, strong and proud.”

Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Mark Arcand said this “should have never happened.” He said the system must change, and all Canadians need to be a part of the solution.

Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations vice-chief Ally Bear said she was thinking of all her relatives in the audience, as well as those who died fighting for justice.

“Today is a huge day and a huge step forward,” Bear said. “”We aren’t going anywhere.”

WATCH | Chiefs respond to Canada’s apology to Dakota, Lakota nations: 

Chiefs respond to Canada’s apology to Dakota, Lakota nations

7 hours ago

Duration 1:37

Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Mark Arcand and Birdtail Sioux First Nation Chief Lindsay Bunn Jr. were among the leaders who responded Monday after federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Gary Anandasangaree offered a formal apology to the nine Lakota and Dakota nations in Canada.

The First Nations affected are Sioux Valley Dakota Nation, Dakota Plains Wahpeton Nation, Birdtail Sioux Dakota Nation, Canupawakpa First Nation, Dakota Tipi, Standing Buffalo Dakota Nation, Wahpeton Dakota Nation, Whitecap Dakota Nation and Wood Mountain Lakota.

Each community is different and will be moving at its own pace in terms of the ramifications from the apology, Sioux Valley Dakota Nation Chief Vince Tacan said. He added the federal government needs to work with the different Dakota Nations based on their unique experiences and not as one group moving forward.

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