Grand Chief David Harper of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak says many natives live in poverty, while the Natural Resources Transfer Agreement of 1930 deals in resource wealth worth billions of dollars.
“When we want to talk about revenue sharing, we want to talk about the damage that’s done to these lands," he said as a three-day meeting of Treaty 6 band leaders from the Prairie provinces concluded Thursday. "We need to talk about these issues.
“The number we’re getting is $350 billion utilized and yet we have Third World conditions.”
The meeting in Prince Albert, Sask., was about how to change the way resource wealth is shared with First Nations.
Harper suggested the three provinces need to stick together if they have any hope of challenging the agreement.
"Manitoba can’t do it alone. Saskatchewan and Alberta have to come along.”
Input from the meeting — the second of three on the issue — has been compiled for a draft document that is to be drawn up and voted on after a final summit in Alberta next year. The first meeting was in Manitoba in 2011.
Harper says legal action may eventually be taken to try to get the resources agreement restructured. Recourse could include going through the federal government, the United Nations or even the British Crown, which was the original signatory of the treaties, he said.
Brian Hardlotte, vice-chief of the Prince Albert Grand Council, said during the runup to the meeting that First Nations may have ceded their right to the land, but not to its resources.
"All we gave up when our elders signed the treaties was the top soil,'' he said. "Depth of the plow, they said, six inches, for the newcomers when they came West on our land to grow their crops, to feed themselves.
"And we allowed that. And they put us on reserves.''