Tuesday, 7 Jul 2020

FSIN proposes teepee camp at contested road project in western Sask.

Out of protest, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) will set up a teepee camp if a contested road project goes ahead in western Saskatchewan, according to Chief Bobby Cameron.

The FSIN chief said his organization will go to any political or legal length to prevent the rural municipality (RM) of Winslow from conducting roadwork next to a property northeast of Dodsland, Sask.

“We have thousands of First Nation women and men that are more than willing to come set up camp,” Cameron said.

“There will be no road construction.”

On Tuesday, the FSIN signed a memorandum of understanding with leadership from Battlefords Agency Tribal Chiefs (BATC) and nearby property owners Jim and Mitzi Gilroy.

First Nations leaders voiced their opposition to the road project last week, saying three ancient artifacts found at the site show the area should be protected.

During an archaeological dig eight months ago, workers unearthed ancient pottery, a pile of identifying rocks (referred to as a ‘cairn’) and 10,000-year-old volcanic rock.

“It’s about working together, right? It’s about finding some solutions that are going to satisfy all sides,” Cameron said.

Cameron wants the area turned into a heritage site.

Mitzi Gilroy said the couple opposes the project because it runs directly through their pastureland. She’s also worried about the artifacts and the lack of consultation with First Nations people in the area.

“If the road is stopped, we want this mess fixed. Like, it has to be returned to what it was,” Mitzi said, gesturing to the dirt pathway already cut into the land.

RM of Winslow staff did not provide a comment Tuesday, but previously stated it has put a pause on all work planned for the site in June.

Citing concerns raised about the road, a statement from the RM council last week said members are reviewing “how to move ahead in an appropriate manner” with the road.

The RM of Winslow is approximately 150 kilometres southwest of Saskatoon.

Neil Sasakamoose, director for BATC, said his organization would support a teepee camp and blockade.

He said the BATC wants to ensure there’s a long-term preservation plan for the artifacts and area.

Sasakamoose is also hoping to see more archaeological digs to determine whether more culturally significant pieces could be discovered.

“A road can wait, in my view. What’s the rush?” Sasakamoose said.

Last week, an official with Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Parks, Culture and Sport said legislation doesn’t require consultation with First Nations over all artifact discoveries.

More significant discoveries like burial sites or medicine wheels require different processes.

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