In this August 2013 photo, Sioux Valley Dakota Nation Chief Vince Tacan signs the first-ever self-government agreement in the Prairie provinces. (FILE PHOTO)
It has been more than a month since Sioux Valley Dakota Nation entered self-governance, but it could take until April before its members start noticing any real changes.
"We’re building a new way of going forward as opposed to being under the Indian Act," Sioux Valley Chief Vince Tacan said. "We’re going to develop our own laws ... and I hope nobody expects us to get it right all the time. We want to move cautiously and put laws in place that are going to work for us."
Voting on proposed new laws could take place in April, Tacan said, adding he hopes establishing new land laws will help them push forward a project planned for the Trans-Canada Highway at the junction with Highway 21.
Tacan said they are still in the "idea stage" for the location he believes would be ideal for a gaming centre and gas bar, or an equestrian centre and race track. But no matter what they decide to go with, Tacan said they want to take advantage of attracting highway traffic.
Since the Sand Hills Casino near Carberry opened at the end of June, Tacan said their own gaming centre revenue has taken a hit. The Sioux Valley Gaming Centre is now bringing in $5,000 to $10,000 less each week, he said.
Sioux Valley’s self-government agreement officially took effect July 1. The agreement, which took nearly two decades to forge, is the first of its kind on the Prairies involving a First Nation, the federal government and the province.
In a nutshell, self-government agreements provide First Nations with "greater control" over decisions relating to economic development, land management, education, housing and water, and provide "the tools required to attract economic opportunities," according to an Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada spokesperson.
Tacan said he hopes community members will be receptive to these changes.
"Especially the young people," he said. "If the young people want us to move forward, they’re going to have to support these changes ... vote on these laws that are going to be proposed."
A large portion of Sioux Valley’s agreement also includes a payment of nearly $80 million in federal government funding over the course of five years to the band to help fund its self-government aspirations. Tacan said the payments are done monthly and they’ve already received their first cheque.
"It’s not to fix mouldy houses or address any of the shortfalls ... it’s all to build governance."
One of the biggest costs involved with self-governance, Tacan said, will be hiring more staff as well as setting up committees and planning consultations with community members.
Despite 64 per cent of residents voting in favour of self-government in October 2012, Tacan has previously admitted that not everyone is on board with the idea.
"There’s going to be some opposition from some people over self-government because there’s going to be rules," he said in an earlier interview with the Sun. "Right now, there’s very little rules so there are some people who have it good at the expense of others."
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Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 12, 2014