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Family dispute could result in splitting of First Nation.

A family feud that carried from one reserve to another is threatening to split Pheasant Rump First Nation.

And a move by Chief Terry McArthur in late February to bring the two sides together for discussion resulted "in a very volatile atmosphere, a lot of tension" on the reserve.

McArthur said his decision to ask council to issue a Band Council Resolution calling for both sides to come to the table and either form an agreement in principle as to how they would work with each other in the future or decide on separation, was, in part, due to a letter received from Aboriginal and Northern Affairs Canada in December. Based on that letter, McArthur came to the realization that ANAC would not grant the separation request because of "lack of documentation" on the part of Pheasant Rump.

"In that letter, they also detailed the process of what the separation needs to do. A lot of it is all avenues have to be exhausted ... It's going to boil down to the minister saying, 'What did you do?' And if we don't have a documented process, he's probably going to say, 'No, it's not going to happen,'" said McArthur.

ANAC received the request from Pheasant Rump to separate a year ago, March 22, 2011. The Band Council Resolution came from outgoing Chief Olive McArthur, who didn't run for re-election. Her position was taken by her son Terry in a close race last September. Olive is the spokesperson for the potential new First Nation and mother and son are on different sides of the fight.

"When I took on this position, when I was elected, I wanted to see all factions ... all families come together, work together, live together, do things together. Be positive, move forward because we're all doing it for our children in the end. I still continue to feel that way, the direction I want to move in," said Terry.

However, Terry holds little hope that decades of bitterness can be resolved. He knows the family history well and says it is painful. Members of the initial Pheasant Rump First Nation were forced on to White Bear First Nation in 1901. Bitterness grew between the descendants of the sons and daughters of Chief Pheasant Rump as some had an easier life than others. Pheasant Rump First Nation was re-established in 1986 and members moved back. The internal fighting between the families carried on.

"It's been a long tough battle," said Terry. "It's not only challenging as a leader, but as a family member."

Terry said the majority of his family sides with his mother in wanting separation.

Pheasant Rump has 391 members, with 162 on reserve. Terry said there are approximately 100 members adamant about separation, another 100 who want to remain as a single nation, and the rest are indecisive.

Rod Desnomie, communications advisor with the Saskatchewan region ANAC office, said should a new First Nation be created, a "split of assets (would occur) and that would also include the land. At this point in the process, it has not been determined how many acres would be divided and allocated to the new band."

The band's land base is slightly more than 20,000 acres and Desnomie said he is not aware of any additional land to be allocated in the case of separation.

The process for separation takes years. Along with negotiations between ANAC and Pheasant Rump First Nation, which would set the terms of separation, band membership needs to agree on those terms. Ministerial approval is then required to create the new First Nation.


Sage Contributing Editor

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Author:Narine, Shari
Publication:Saskatechewan Sage
Date:Apr 1, 2012
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