Treaty Indians are represented by the Department of Indian Affairs through Indian Agents but, from the 1950’s until 1975, progress on a settlement was hardly visible. Finally becoming impatient at the delaying tactics, the Indians obtained legal counsel and went to Ottawa. They got results. A referendum of the band must still be held before the arrangement is accepted by all of the Beaver or Slavey reserves.
There are about three hundred people involved, belonging to thirty-five families. About twelve million dollars, for claims on royalties dating back to about 1960, will be divided equally in credit to every man, woman and child. Cash payments, up to about half a million dollars, said the spokesman for the bands. This will be distributed soon, but a large part of the settlement will be placed in a trust account. The Indians plan to move their villages, construct new homes or upgrade old ones, put in a sewer system and other amenities, build up a cattle raising industry which they had already started, and extend other forms of agriculture and industry.
Future payments will depend on royalties as they accrue on gas, oil, and possible minerals on a fifty-fifty basis with the Provincial government, and will be placed in a trust account pending decisions by the entire band.
The settlement is considered to be a precedent, comparable to the James Bay project settlement. Although the amount involved is much smaller, its value, percentage – wise, is considered better than that famous settlement. It will not necessarily be binding on the government’s dealings with other Indians in British Columbia or elsewhere who do not show the special conditions relating to treaties or land deals. But it is precedent setting and is, therefore, a landmark decision. Their lawyer is Mr. Andrew Sherk.