By Marianne Curtis
In a historic vote, the Roseau River First Nation has approved a multi-million dollar land settlement package.
On February 8, a vast majority of the community’s registered members voted to accept the $80.6 million settlement from the federal government in a land dispute that goes back more than 100 years. The money is compensation for 12 large sections of land that the band was pressured to open up to farmers and settlers in what is known as the 1903 Surrender.
Chief Terrance Nelson is pleased that his band’s members voted to accept the settlement.
“We believe we negotiated a good settlement amount, over ten thousand dollars for every acre that was lost, the leadership are recommending the settlement,” Nelson explained. “The people have spoken and it is a clear mandate.”
Included in the agreement is a Per Capita Distribution of $5,000 to every Tribal member. Up to 13 million dollars is set aside for the Per Capita Distribution for projects such as housing and education.
“While no settlement is perfect and no trust structure is acceptable to everyone, we have achieved an overwhelming positive vote,” added Nelson.
Out of 1,444 eligible voters – 929 voters participated in the referendum.
However, the Band may now have to wait another year before they will see any payout on the agreement after allegations have surfaced.
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada have received an objection from a band member over the voting process. The objection alleges that band members were forced to vote on the same day as a settlement information session was held and that voters were paid $50 to cast their ballots. The man filing the complaint alleges that could be construed as vote-buying.
At the time of the vote, band officials said the $50 was offered to cover transportation costs.