Members of K’atlodeeche First Nation will be voting later this month on whether to ratify an agreement with the federal government over agricultural benefits in Treaty 8.

The Crown’s agricultural commitments in Treaty 8 are often referred to as the “cows and plows” promise.

As it was agreed to in 1899, the treaty obliges the federal government to provide farming equipment including “two hoes, one spade, one scythe and two hay forks for every family so settled, and for every three families one plough and one harrow, and to the Chief, for the use of his Band, two horses or a yoke of oxen, and for each Band potatoes, barley, oats and wheat (if such seed be suited to the locality of the reserve),” among other things.

A vote is in the works to change that though the CEO of the First Nation has declined to say how much money was in the proposed agreement, explaining it is a confidential offer.

“The members have been provided a full package of what’s being offered and they’re being asked to vote on that,” said Peter Groenen, chief executive officer with KFN.

If the agreement is approved by the membership, Groenen said there will be another set of discussions with the community about how the money will be managed and used.

“There’s a planned vote for Nov. 28, a ratification vote for the offer, and that vote is strictly to accept the offer. Yes or no to accept the offer,” he said. “There’s nothing in this vote about the distribution of the money or anything. It’s about accepting the offer from Canada.”

Groenen did say it’s a financial compensation in lieu of the promises for agricultural equipment and support in Treaty 8.

“This is one of the promises made in Treaty 8 in 1900 that was never fulfilled,” he said. “So this is just the one promise in the treaty that is being ratified. For the rest of the treaty, there are ongoing discussions in other areas.”

Groenen noted band council is recommending acceptance of the offer.

The CEO pointed out that about 20 other First Nations under Treaty 8 have also received offers, and are in the ratification process.

“Each group had their own negotiating team,” he said. “I think the offers might be similar, but we don’t know because all the offers are confidential.”

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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