Red Earth and Shoal Lake Cree Nation Indian Claims Commission


In May 1996, the Shoal Lake Cree Nation and the Red Earth Cree Nation jointly submitted a specific claim to the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, alleging that Canada had breached the terms of Treaty 5 and the 1876 Adhesion by not providing farming lands to the Red Earth and Shoal Lake Cree Nations. Following a near 9 year silence on behalf of the Federal Goverment, the First Nations requested that the Indian Claims Commission (ICC) investigate their claim, despite it not being formally rejected by the Federal Government. In December 2006, the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs formally rejected the First Nations' claim. In addition, the ICC found that the Canadian Government had upheld its obligations to provide both First Nations with farming lands in accordance with Treaty 5. However, the ICC report suggests that both reserves are no longer viable places to grow crops and raise animals due to the increase in water levels. This finding by the ICC is significant in the discussion of sustainability and climate vulnerability of the Shoal Lake, Red Earth and James Smith First Nations. The ICC recommended that the Canadian government initiate discussions with all affected communities to find a long-term solution to the problems caused by the condition of their reserve lands.

Both the ICC and the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada rejected the claims submitted by the Shoal Lake and Red Earth First Nations. However, both communities, as well as the James Smith community, face hardship as their lands have changed and are affected by increasing water levels, rendering them impractical for agricultural purposes. Vulnerability to climate is demonstrated by the lack of employment opportunities, low income, lack of education and the loss of traditional languages. A study conducted by Jeremy Baron Pittman examines the consequences of climate vulnerability for people living in Shoal Lake and James Smith communities. Interviews conducted by Pittman as part of his research project reveal that one constant in the lives of community members is change. Many changes in the land over time have warranted a community response. For example, much of the Shoal Lake reserve is now under water, with inundation along the shore dependent on lake water levels and on the wetness of the year or particular season. In both communities, agriculture was practiced from the time of the treaties to the middle of the 20th century. However, many of the fields have become flooded. In addition, heavy spring melt and rainfall translates to an excess in surface water, causing roads and basements to flood. With little resources to cope with these problems, issues of lack of mobility and adequate housing necessarily arise. Poor infrastructure or lack thereof only serve to exacerbate the problem. The concerns of the Shoal Lake and Red Easr First Nations, are presented in their claim to the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, speaks to the larger issue of climate change and its consequences on Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan. Historically, land surrenders, dam construction and logging have been detrimental to many Indigenous communities, encroaching on their traditional land bases. ------------------ Climate change has a greater impact on traditional subsistence economies, as is highlighted in a 2006 report by the Assembly of First Nations. According to their report, there is evidence that a considerable level of subsistence economy still occurs on Indigenous communities across the country. For certain northern communities, the effects of climate change on subsistence economies result in: thinning and retreating sea ice, drying tundra, increased storms, reduced summer rainfall, warmer winters, and changes in the distribution and migration patterns of certain wildlife species.
Sub Event
Climate vulnerability of Shoal Lake and James Smith First Nations
File Description
Shoal Lake Red Earth Climate Vulnerability Study