CBC Morningside Interview with Chief Ominayak

Lubicon Lake Indian Nation
Little Buffalo Lake, AB
FAX: 403-629-3939

Mailing address:
3536 - 106 Street
Edmonton, AB T6J 1A4
FAX: 403-437-0719

November 02, 1993

Enclosed for your information is a copy of a transcript of a live radio interview with Lubicon Chief Ominayak done on a national radio program called CBC Morningside. CBC Morningside is a highly regarded radio program listened to by many people across the country.

Transcript of CBC Morningside Radio Program (11:30 A.M.)

Monday, November 1, 1993

CBC Morningside: The Lubicon Indian Nation has been waiting for about 50 years for a resolution of their claim for reserve land and a treaty settlement. Negotiations with the former Conservative Government reached an impasse again last year. Bernard Ominayak is Chief of the Lubicon Cree. He's on the line from his home in Little Buffalo Lake. Good morning, Chief Ominayak.

Bernard Ominayak, Chief, Lubicon Lake Indian Nation: Good morning.

CBC: I think the last time you and I talked was during the 1988 Olympics in Calgary, and it seems to me that there was a lot more momentum at that time to get this thing solved. The Alberta Government had agreed to a reserve. What happened? Where did all that energy and momentum go?

Ominayak: At that time, when Premier Getty set aside those lands to transfer back to the Federal Government, the Federal Government stated that it was fine and dandy for the Provincial Government to make an agreement and send the bill to somebody else. That was the attitude of the Federal Government and they never really changed that attitude. They then proposed an unacceptable "take-it-or-leave-it" offer and tried to force us into accepting it.

CBC: We're going to talk about what's going to happen in the future, or at least what you're working towards. Let's just go over a bit of history here. Why did the Lubicon Cree never get a reserve or a treaty in the first place?

Ominayak: From the documentation that's available, it's clear that the Treaty Commissioners back in the late 1800s and early 1900s used the waterways in and around northern Alberta -- like the Peace River and the Athabasca River. We're inland. They dealt with people to the south of us and to the north of us, all around us but they never came into our area. So we were completely missed, even though people knew that we were here and the Treaty Commissioners were notified that we were here. They had many reasons, I guess, which led to the Lubicons not being dealt with.

CBC: But surely no one today is arguing about the Lubicons' right to a certain parcel of land there, that it is your home?

Ominayak: No, there's no question about that.

CBC: So where does the question lie now? What's the problem? How big of a piece of land are you living on now?

Ominayak: We're living in a small community located approximately 5 miles from where we originally lived around Lubicon Lake. That's because of a missionary that came into our area back in the 50s, early 50s, and built a little mission, a school -- he wasn't allowed to build where we were, so he had to build outside of the area where the people lived. There were no roads or anything of that nature. All we had were horses, a team of horses and dogs, dog sleds in the winter. So it was hard for us to go to school. Our parents started moving closer to the school. That's how we ended up in the community of Little Buffalo. At the time this missionary wanted to build the school where we were at Lubicon Lake but the Provincial Government wouldn't let him because he was supposedly trying to build a school inside an Indian reserve. So we had to come outside of that. And that's where we are at today.

CBC: How large were those traditional lands? How much property is involved?

Ominayak: The traditional area is probably -- we don't have the exact miles -- but we're probably looking at close to 5,000 square miles, 4,000, somewhere in there.

CBC: Now does the Federal Government recognize that area?

Ominayak: The Federal Government -- I guess it depends on what time of the day you talk to them. In the past they've changed positions just about any time the weather changed. But in essence I think both levels of Government recognize that we have to get this matter resolved. Sadly so far they've tried to resolve it by undermining our rights to the area. They make great efforts to try to undermine our legal rights to this area.

CBC: But in the Federal Government's "take-it-or-leave-it" offer, as you described it, it would provide for about $45 million for the Band plus the territory?

Ominayak: The $45 million wouldn't be enough even if it had been there -- which it wasn't. A lot of that $45 million they talked about was subject to conditions. For example, we proposed a little community health unit. From the estimates that we got, we were looking at a building that would cost about $350,000 to build. So what the Federal Government proposed to us was to go to Health and Welfare and if we fit into their guidelines and policies, and to see if they had that money in that fiscal year, that then we could apply and hopefully get it. Now that's not exactly an offer of a health unit as claimed by the Federal Government. So these are the kinds of things that were going on. It's clear that they were never serious. They wanted to paint a certain picture to the public, while not being prepared to deal with us in a manner that would resolve this situation.

CBC: It seems that you must feel that you are buried in red tape and bureaucracy, and yet there's now another special review commission which has come out with some recommendations. It appears to me that this is a bit of a victory for you, their recommendation that all royalties are held in trust until the thing gets settled. Does it seem like a victory for you?

Ominayak: I think it was nice from a number of points to get those recommendations that were made by the Lubicon Settlement Commission of Review. One of the nice things about it was that there were a lot of different kinds of people involved in the Commission. For example there were people from the Peace River area, people from Edmonton, people from Calgary, all over: they came from different backgrounds, different professions, and together they reviewed all the documentation from the Lubicon people and also from the Governments. Invitations were made to all parties to participate in the hearings. So it was very interesting to watch and see how people from different backgrounds felt about what was going on. I think overall this was a process worth doing.

CBC: But do you think that withholding royalties will do the trick? Will that get it settled?

Ominayak: What is happening right now is everybody else is benefitting from the natural resources taken from our traditional area while we're subject to welfare. I think it would only make sense to start looking at and considering how best to deal with the resources that other people are stealing. I think it certainly would put greater pressure on the people who've been benefitting from stealing our resources. There's been billions of dollars in resources taken out of our area.

CBC: Are you hopeful with Jean Chretien's election -- I think he told you before the election that he supported the recommendations?

Ominayak: Yes, we certainly feel that there's at least another opportunity to sit down with a new Government and hopefully we have enough people within the Liberal Party who are aware of the situation and who have been involved to some degree in the past that we can come to terms and reach a settlement which will allow our people to start building our own future. I would hope that Chretien continues to support the recommendations that he supported in the past. I would say that there's hope and I hope a positive change in the attitude of the Federal Government.

CBC: Chief, thank you very much.

Ominayak: Thank you.

CBC: Bernard Ominayak is the Chief of the Lubicon Cree in northern Alberta.