Treaty 2 Territory – It’s been a struggle and tough the last two decades for Lake St Martin, a member of the Nation of First Nations in Treaty 2 Territory. In fact, it’s been a tough half century as one of the most prosperous First Nations in Manitoba saw construction of the Fairford Water Control structure totally destroy their cattle industry.
And on top of that, there was the 2011 catastrophic flooding that destroyed their homes, their community, and now is destroying their culture and the community itself.
All of this happened because of decisions made by the Government of Manitoba. The earlier decisions caused results that had not been anticipated. The 2011 flooding was caused by a deliberate decision to prevent flooding downstream, including Winnipeg at the expense of the First Nations, and then not taking responsibility for the results.
The flood and water from the man-made diversion of Portage has destroyed a once prosperous and striving First Nation with the fishery and farming.
Today, after just half the community returning; elders and members continue to live away. Chief Sinclair wonders what the future will be – if there is a future. “We need to stay together and work together to move forward. Believing in ourselves and continue to rebuild our nation,” says Chief Sinclair.
Lake St. Martin’s Chief and Council are looking to the Nation for support. They see more of their members becoming involved. They appreciate the Nation-based Treaty-based support which keeps them up front with making their own decisions on matters which concern them.
The First Nations making up the Nation are each working on their own constitutions to set out their own governance and means of making laws for the community. When that task is done, there will be a ratification process so the majority of Lake St. Martin’s members can show their approval of their self-governance, an inherent right protected by the Treaty.
Then those communities with ratified constitutions will join to develop a constitution for the Nation, setting out a permanent Government.
This Nation-based Treaty-based style of governance fits the traditions and customs of the Anishinaabe People. It is also Treaty based, intended to further the peace and friendship envisioned by the original Treaty, and renewing the original plan agreed to of opening up lands for “immigration and settlement”, paying compensation for the lands taken up, with the Nation reserving the remaining lands for their sustenance and livelihood. .
The Nation is already involved in discussions regarding re-assuming responsibility for their systems of carrying for their own children pursuant to their own laws and culture, as well as also assuming responsibility for health and education. A major goal is working with the people of Manitoba and their government to restore the lands and waters of the territory that they enjoyed at the time when the Treaty was entered into.