Sioux Valley Dakota Nation will be freed from the grip of the outdated Indian Act and is expected to be self-governing by the end of summer 2014.
That’s the tentative timeline, Chief Vince Tacan said Thursday after the self-government agreement (Bill C-16) passed third reading in the House of Commons.
“This historic legislation shows the positive and concrete results that can be achieved through joint work between Canada and First Nations,” Minister of Aboriginal Affairs Bernard Valcourt said in a release.
“Today marks an important milestone towards modernizing Canada’s relationship with Sioux Valley Dakota Nation and providing the community with the tools and authority to build a more self-sufficient and prosperous future.”
After the agreement is passed by the Senate and receives royal assent, Sioux Valley will have control over its own education, child and family services, economic development, land claims and housing.
Work has already started on this enormous undertaking, Tacan said, focusing on those areas first. Over the coming years, the new government will incrementally address approximately 50 programs Sioux Valley will have jurisdiction over as a result of the deal, including governance, financial administration, cultural matters and health care, which is currently delegated to Prairie Mountain Health.
“There is still the option of having delegated authorities,” Tacan said. “Wherever something we feel is meeting the needs right now, we’re not going to tamper with until we are fully ready to look at those jurisdictions.”
The landmark deal, first penned in August, is the first of its kind on the Prairies involving a First Nation, the federal government and the province.
“It’s vindication that the hard work we’ve done, the belief that there is something better for us ... has paid off,” Tacan said.
Tacan, who has been credited with reducing the community’s debt load since he took office in 2010, said his primary focus will be on employment, economic development and housing for the more than 1,000 members of the reserve.
In five years, Tacan wants to see Sioux Valley attract business and jobs to grow the community.
“I would like to focus on economic development, I think that’s the area the chief and council should be focused on.”
Tacan admits there is pressure to get it right and said the community will tread lightly into its new role as government.
“We are cognizant that this is something new for this region and we also recognize that other communities and other bands are watching this and they’re also looking at opportunities for themselves,” he said.
In October 2012, the reserve voted 64 per cent in favour of self-government.
The legislation brings the First Nation out from under the Indian Act, though Sioux Valley members will continue to be recognized and treated as Status Indians under the act.
Dakota Nation laws will be harmonized with existing federal and provincial laws and exercised within the Canadian constitution, according to the government.
Once the self-government agreements with Sioux Valley are brought into effect, the government of Canada will have reached 20 comprehensive self-government agreements with 34 aboriginal communities.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 6, 2013