A Self-Governing Dakota Nation

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation Governance Office

Historically, First Nations in Canada have been subject to the Indian Act and policies of the Department of Indian Affairs, which has led to detrimental impacts and interference with the progress of First Nation communities. Through maintaining a consistent vision of former leaders, Sioux Valley Dakota Nation has taken the initiative to not be the subject of Indian Act policy, and instead be a Dakota Nation which is self-governing by the Dakota Oyate under SVDN Law.  By creating its own governance based on Dakota traditions, SVDN will be recognized through agreements negotiated with Canada and Manitoba as a government pursuant to the SVDN Constitution of the People.  These agreements were negotiated over 21 years with the contributions of many Elders, members and leaders.  The Agreements were initialed by the negotiators on June 28, 2011 to end the negotiation process, and on October 4, 2012, a majority of eligible voters from SVDN voted in favor of accepting the SVDN Governance Agreements.

August 30, 2013

On August 30th, 2013 the SVDN Governance Agreements between SVDN, the Government of Canada, and the Province of Manitoba were signed before the community. Present as signatories were Chief Vince Tacan and Council, Bernard Valcourt (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada), and Eric Robinson (Minister for Aboriginal and Northern Affairs Manitoba).

This approval establishes SVDN as the only recognized First Nation government east of British Columbia and west of Quebec.  Furthermore, SVDN is the only Dakota Nation Government, the only First Nation Government with a Tripartite Agreement with a province in Canada, and one of only three single First Nation governments with recognized law making jurisdiction.

SVDN is awaiting the final step to achieving self-governance, where the governments of Canada and Manitoba will pass legislation in the federal and provincial legislatures which recognize and respect SVDN Law and SVDN Government.

On December 5, 2013 the legislation which recognizes SVDN as a self-governing Dakota Nation out from under the Indian Act passed through the Canadian House of Commons with the full support of all political parties.

In February 2014 the legislation was presented before the Senate and brought to the Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, where Chief Vincent Tacan of SVDN testified before the committee in order to illustrate the historical basis for Sioux Valley’s self-government, provide an account of the self-government negotiations, and promote the importance self-government will have for SVDN. Please see the Community News tab for further information on this important event.

March 14, 2014

The Sioux Valley Dakota Nation Governance Act, Bill C-16, the first statute of 2014, described as Sioux Valley Governance Act SC c.1-2014, was given Royal Assent by the Governor General of Canada on March 4, 2014 after 3 readings in the House of Commons.  The Act  was passed unanimously by all party consent, and was the only law passed unanimously by the Canadian Parliament.

The Bill was then sponsored and introduced to the Senate by Senator Nancy Greene-Raine  and was followed by 3 readings.   After the second reading in the Senate, Bill C-16 was referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples for further study.  This occurred on February 25 and 26, 2014 and can be viewed on the Senate website at www.parlvu.ca.

Many of us will remember Senator Nancy Greene-Raine as the Olympic ski champion who achieved 17 Canadian women skiing championships, and 14 women’s world titles.  To date, her record has not been broken.  She told Chief Tacan that she wants to visit Sioux Valley in the near future and would be happy to look over the hills of Sioux Valley to see which might be developed as a “half-pipe” for the youth.

As a result of the passage of Bill C-16, followed by passing a similar statute by the Province of Manitoba, Sioux Valley Dakota Nation will become self-governing on July 1, 2014.  This will provide Sioux Valley with the opportunity to remove itself from the constraints of the Indian Act by beginning to pass laws, and be a recognized government by Canada and Manitoba.

April 30, 2014

Stu Briese, MLA, Chief Vince Tacan, and Ian Wishart, MLA 

On Apirl 30, 2014, the Manitoba Legislature held a reading of the provincial Sioux Valley Dakota Nation Governance Act. Eric Robinson, Minister for Aboriginal and Northern Affairs for Manitoba, presented the bill to the legislature and commended the efforts of Chief Vince Tacan and the elders, veterans and community members of Sioux Valley Dakota Nation for achieving this historic step in First Nations governance.  Members of the Legislative Assembly presented on and discussed the bill and its importance for Sioux Valley Dakota Nation and First Nations self-determination, and acknowledged Chief Tacan and SVDN representatives in attendance with a standing ovation.

Minister Robinson stated that the bill formalizes Manitoba’s recognition of and concurrence with the governance agreement between Sioux Valley Dakota Nation and Canada, which establishes a government-to-government relationship between Sioux Valley, Canada and the province of Manitoba, and creates agreement between the three parties that Sioux Valley will govern itself through the creation of its own community laws in over fifty jurisdiction areas, which will be respected by and operate in harmony with federal and provincial laws. Minister Robinson stated that “for decades Canadians have agreed with First Nations that existing paternalistic Indian Act laws must be replaced with this existing agreement with Sioux Valley, and [this will] step outside the parameters of the Indian Act and become a model for other First Nations.”

Stuart Briese, Opposition Critic for Aboriginal and Northern Affairs for Manitoba, spoke highly of the efforts by Chief Tacan, Councillors, and the elders, and stated that the bill creates “a true government-to-government relationship between jurisdictions and allows the goverments to move forward in a mutually beneficial manner, and that’s very important. It truly marks the partnership and collaboration in Manitoba in a model for communities across the rest of the prairies.”  Mr. Briese presented on what Sioux Valley will be able to accomplish under the agreement, stating that the agreement will allow Sioux Valley members to move “away from a model of external imposition, allowing the individuals within this group to determine their own destiny.”

Jon Gerrard, MLA for River Heights, presented on the many steps in the effort for self-government to the legislature, beginning with the initial framework agreement in 1991 under Chief Robert Bone and continuing through the efforts directed under former councillors Oswald McKay, John Sioux, Eugene Taylor and Edward Wanbdiska, and former Chiefs Ronald Hall, Ivan Ironman, Ken Whitecloud, and now Vince Tacan.  Dr. Gerrard stated that self-government “is a significant step forward because it moves the community of Sioux Valley out from under the Indian Act and into a position where the community will have the ability to pass and implement their own laws…the laws that are passed in Sioux Valley will have precedence, and that will provide the means for self-government.”  Dr. Gerrard also spoke highly of his recent conversation with local Sioux Valley artist Elvis Antoine on community development and the importance of self-government.

Sharon Blady, MLA and Minister of Healthy Living and Seniors, also congratulated Chief and Council and stated that the people of Sioux Valley and their efforts were “showing leadership in self-determination at this time, and you have shown it over the years, and this is something that all Canadians, whether we are Aboriginal or we are newcomers, should be proud of…I look forward to the prosperous evolution of this relationship with Sioux Valley Dakota Nation.”

June 2, 2014

On June 2, 2014 the Province of Manitoba brought the legislation of Bill 48, the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation Governance Act to the Standing Committee on Social and Economic Development.  The bill officially recognizes Sioux Valley Dakota Nation as a self-governing First Nation by the Province of Manitoba.  A delegation from Sioux Valley Dakota Nation attended the committee hearing and presented their support of SVDN’s self-government initiative to the Manitoba MLAs.

Chief Vince Tacan spoke on behalf of the legislation, described the historical motivation of Sioux Valley to move forward with its own governance, and credited the teamwork in the community which has been crucial to bringing the self-government initiative forward. Chief Tacan also described how cooperation between SVDN, Canada and Manitoba has led to the Agreements and will guide future cooperative efforts between the parties as Sioux Valley becomes self-governing.  Chief Tacan stated that through pursuing this goal of self-governance and self-determination, the despair and defeat of the past is being replaced by a hope and optimism for the future, and leading to new opportunities for present and future generations.

Sioux Valley High School Junior Chief Antonio Johnson-Wombdiska presented on behalf of the youth, and spoke of the importance of self-government for future generations. He described how self-government will be an important step in addressing the concerns of SVDN youth, as it will create more job opportunities, provide financial stability, promote education and traditional education in language and culture, develop authority in matters of policing and justice, promote tradition and history by strengthening interaction and responsibility between youth and elders, and improve traditional and contemporary medical and health care. Junior Chief Antonio was commended by the legislative committee for bringing the voice of youth leadership forward.

Wayne Wasicuna spoke on behalf of the elders of Sioux Valley Dakota Nation and presented on how the people of Sioux Valley have emerged out of hardship and restriction in the past to a new opportunity and future through self-government.  Mr. Wasicuna also spoke of the strength of the Dakota people as the Dakota are able to determine their own future.

Donna Elk spoke from her experience as a former chief and in working through the governance office on the self-government initiative, stating that cooperation between SVDN, Manitoba and Canada, coupled with hard work on the part of the community, has been essential for bringing self-government forward and moving out of dependency and restrictive structures imposed on the community.

Governance Coordinator Carol Johnson presented on self-government and her experience in the self-government process, and on the opportunity available to the largest Dakota community in Canada, stating that recognition would bring the vision of self-government forward, being able to make laws and rules for SVDN and for the community’s benefit.

Ivan Ironman presented a historical view on the origins of exploring self-government, through working with the late Chief Robert Bone in the 1980s and working as Chief in the 1990s, and illustrated the initial process, the difficulties and benefits of working through the process, leading up to the stage of achievement today.

Marge Roscelli presented a traditional perspective and a personal history of supporting and working with the self-government initiative and health care in Sioux Valley Dakota Nation, and was commended by the legislative committee for presenting a traditional Dakota song for the elders, leadership, and those who have passed on: “Watch me / I am coming / I am a brave heart / When the Oyate, the nation, needs me / I gird myself with courage / And I step forward.”

The Standing Committee thanked the SVDN delegation for their efforts and for the hard work of the community in bringing self-government to this important point in history.

The committee hearing was a successful effort on behalf of SVDN to demonstrate the importance of self-government in providing opportunities for the community and creating a defining moment for the history of the Dakota people.  The committee hearing was followed by a third reading and a vote in the Manitoba Legislature, where it passed through a standing vote with each MLA standing to acknowledge the support of the Government of Manitoba.  The bill is now waiting for the final process of royal assent, in order to become a Manitoba law recognizing Sioux Valley Dakota Nation as self-governing.

The full Hansard transcript of the committee hearing is available to read at http://www.gov.mb.ca/legislature/hansard/40th_3rd/sed_04/sed_04.html

The presentations to the Standing Committee in Winnipeg were followed by business in Ottawa.

Chief Tacan, Councillor Mark Hall, and the SVDN governance team met with negotiators and personnel from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) to discuss…

Following the meeting, SVDN was presented with an official framed document commemorating the passage of the federal Sioux Valley Dakota Nation Governance Act.  Formerly Bill C-16, the Act was passed into law and received royal assent at the federal level, officially proclaiming Canada’s recognition of Sioux Valley Dakota Nation as self-governing.  The framed declaration will join six other recognized negotiated self-government agreements on the wall at AANDC.