MATT GOERZEN/BRANDON SUN
Two Cree riders from First Nations in Saskatchewan chat before a Dakota First Nation ride on Thursday. The two men were among at least seven riders to show their support for the sovereignty of the Dakota Nation and its right to sell Mohawk cigarettes at the controversial Dakota Chundee Smoke Shop east of Pipestone. The riders met six kilometres north of Reston at a sacred Dakota site, where their horses were blessed, before riding to the smoke shop.
RESTON — Several First Nations members took to horseback on Thursday to protest the pending motion and the fines that could be levelled against those involved in the Dakota Chundee Smoke Shop.
At least seven horsemen from various First Nations in Manitoba and Saskatchewan saddled up for a protest ride yesterday morning, which started at a sacred Dakota burial and meeting site, located six kilometres north of Reston.
They were met by at least 16 First Nation supporters and elders who gathered at the site for a ceremonial horse blessing, before the procession rode out to Highway 2 and followed it to the smoke shop, east of Pipestone.
"We’re doing this rally to let the people and society know that we are following laws," said Canupawakpa Chief Frank Brown, who was among those in the procession. "And because we’re non-treaty to Canada, the Canadian law and the first law — the law of the land — was not negotiated, so we could co-exist. And that’s the issue today."
As the Sun reported on Thursday, in a motion to be heard Oct. 26, legal council for Attorney General Andrew Swan will call on the court to find Brown and Dakota Plains Chief Orville Smoke in contempt of court and ask authorities to take possession of the smoke shop, which is located east of Pipestone.
The motion calls for fines of $10,000 each to be levelled against both Brown and Smoke, and a smaller fine of $1,500 against Garth Leon Blacksmith, who was charged under the Tobacco Tax Act during the first raid on the Chundee shop by Manitoba Finance authorities last year.
The unsigned and undated draft documents suggest the motion will be filed on the grounds that Brown and Smoke are operating the smoke shop contrary to an injunction ordered by Justice Brenda Keyser on May 30 of this year.
Sioux Valley Dakota First Nation resident Harold Blacksmith, who helped handle the horses yesterday and who has been involved with the smoke shop, said the Dakota have a right to economic prosperity and self-sufficiency.
It’s the province and the federal government, Blacksmith said, that are interfering in the Dakota way of life and trodding on his people’s rights as a non-treaty nation.
"It’s not about one community," Blacksmith said. "It’s about the Dakota people. When we talk about sovereignty, we talk about being able to make our own decisions and create our own livelihood."
The smoke shop, he said, has been unfairly vilified by the provincial government and the media. Trying to create this kind of economic development is better than waiting for a government hand out, he said.
"This is for the future of our grandchildren."
Another First Nation member, who gave the ceremonial horse blessing at the top of the mound, said the federal and provincial governments need to start negotiating fairly.
"I think the government should acknowledge our rights of who we are," he said. "We are a signatory people. We strongly believe in our traditional ways.
"We want acknowledgement from the province as to who we are, as Dakota nations."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 19, 2012