The Government of Canada has promised to issue an official apology to the Dakota people of Canada this month. Dakota Tipi Chief Dennis Pashe says it's a huge historic event for his people. He expects it to come from the top tier, the Prime Minister, himself, in the House of Commons.
Pashe notes the current date for the event is June 19.
"It's important for the Dakota people to correct the history of this land," says Pashe.
He explains Canada drew up its borders when the Dakota people had made their annual temporary migration south, and didn't get in on the negotiations for treaties and recognition as a result.
"It's important that the Dakota apology happens because Dakotas have always been in this country and shaped government policy regarding land claims and our history, and how it affects us as Indigenous First Nation Indians. It will help us move forward in terms of our rights in this country, as well."
Pashe says this will be the first event of its kind for Dakotas.
"In history, we've always been in Canada," notes Pashe. "We've done our own research. I've done our own research. We've been here over, as far as the research I've done, 13,000 years from the time Lake Agassiz was here. We're a confederacy of Dakota, Lakota and Nakota people, or what's commonly referred to as Sioux people. But we don't call ourselves Sioux people. We call ourselves Dakotas because of the dialect. We have different dialects but are the same people."
He explains the apology is significant, seeing as it will aid them in going forward in terms of getting in on the benefits of what's currently taking place in the Portage la Prairie area.
"Portage is a multi-billion dollar area of economic activity and we're not really benefiting in that," says Pashe. "It gives us more strength to negotiate agreements with Manitoba or any other agreements that are happening. Right now, our reserve is suffering from the effects of Manitoba constantly bringing water into Manitoba from Saskatchewan and diverting water from Saskatchewan, overflowing the Assiniboine River, and flowing through the Portage diversion, which is 100 yards from us."
He says this creates problems in their water tables as they become saturated, creating all manner of problems for construction, building, and living.
Pashe notes he will be attending the event in Ottawa with his council and elders, stressing it is definitely a historic occasion.
"We are asserting our rights," adds Pashe. "We've been here thousands and thousands of years before there was a Canada; before there was United States, before there was a Manitoba and Ontario. I mean, how do Sioux Narrows and Sioux Lookout get their names? It's because we used to travel that way up to Niagara Falls to trade with the Mohawk people, historically."
He explains the onus is always on them to prove they were here for centuries.
"We've been doing a lot of research over the last 50 years as to what our history is," says Pashe. "Their policy is, 'You Dakotas are immigrants from the United States.' But no, we always were here. We have treaties with the British Crown at the War of 1812. Dakota Chiefs actually served in the War of 1812 and were actually generals in those battles. And then what happened in the Treaty of Ghent in 1815, they moved the Canadian boundary, which was further south. And they moved it north. So, that kept Dakotas in the American side."
Pashe elaborates and says they've always maintained that they're not really Canadians or Americans. They're North Americans.
"That's why I put Article 36 in the United Nations Declaration of Rights and Indigenous Peoples, which has finally been adopted by Canada," adds Pashe. "I'm not sure if they're amending their laws or policy to accommodate that adoption. But Article 36 is quite clear and that's why it is put in there, as boundaries of nations and states shall not abrogate the rights of indigenous people, culturally, and economically."
Kevin Bunn is a councillor from Birdtale, Manitoba, who is also Dakota.
"I am very happy that I could talk and tell about what I feel will be a great history for our Dakota Nation," says Bunn. "As a Sioux nation, we've been fighting and we've been finding ways to heal and help our people walk on that road with everybody, and work with everybody. But it seems like it doesn't happen. From what's happening now, it's a historical event that I think should go down in history and be written down that there's an apology being made. That's a good thing."
He says the apology is a part of everybody having fair treatment in the world.
"This is what I believe in my heart. That should be done, and when this public apology is done, I feel it should be written on what in the physical world they call on a piece of paper; black and white," says Bunn. "We wouldn't have to have the problem we're having today if it was written in history. Then we have something to show that it has been done. And it's been a long time coming. Now it is here and it's a great historical event."
Bunn adds it will make a doorway for Dakota nations to move into the future and grow.
"There's more to talk about as it goes on, but as far as right now, this is goodness coming for our people and all people that walk on Mother Earth."
(Story initially stated that MB Hydro was responsible for water flooding from Assiniboine through Portage Diversion when the Province is actually responsible).