Arthur WILLIAMS / Prince George Citizen
The chief of a former Treaty 6 First Nation will be holding a meeting in Prince George on Saturday to organize efforts to have the band reinstated.
Chief Calvin Bruneau will be meeting with descendants of the Papaschase First Nation to give them an update on the current status of the former band's efforts. Bruneau said he is not sure how many Papaschase First Nation descendants live in the Prince George region, but there may be as many as 5,000 to 10,000 people across Canada with family ties to the Edmonton area band.
"We want the band recognized. Chief Papaschase signed Treaty 6," he said. "Getting [official recognition as a First Nation] will really mean a lot, because it will bring our people back together. [And] having band status does help us with funding and getting land, and so we can get to a place we can negotiate with government."
According to the history compiled by the group, Chief Papaschase and his six brothers settled in the Edmonton area in the 1850s after having come from the Slave Lake area.
On Aug. 21, 1877 Chief Papaschase (also known as John Gladieu-Quinn) and his brother signed an adherence to Treaty 6 at Fort Edmonton.
However after a series of disputes between the band, Department of Indian Affairs and settlers in Fort Edmonton about the size and location of the band's reserve in the area, many band members -starving because of lack of buffalo and other game - were convinced to take scrip, and be released from official Indian status.
Other members were amalgamated into the Enoch First Nation's Stony Plane Reserve. On Nov. 19, 1888 the federal government obtained the surrender of 39.9 square miles allocated to the Papaschase Indian Reserve from the three remaining adult men of the band living on the Stony Plain Reserve.
The land where the reserve was was sold by the government to private investors and now makes up a significant portion of downtown Edmonton, Bruneau said.
In 1999, descendants of the band began organizing efforts to restore official status as a First Nation. They have challenged the legality of the surrender of the band's reserve under the Indian Act.
"We did file a [land] claim before, but we're renewing our efforts," he said. "Only a recognized band can make a claim."
Bruneau said there are members of other First Nations or disbanded First Nations who would join a reformed Papaschase First Nation. In addition, the band organization has been meeting with the City of Edmonton, Alberta provincial government and other Edmonton-area First Nations.
Meeting organizer Audrey Waite, who currently lives in Courtenay, said descendants of the band will be coming from across B.C. to attend. Many of the former Papaschase members moved to B.C. after their reserve was surrendered, she said.
Waite urged anyone in the area with family ties to the Papaschase First Nation to attend the meeting at the Prince George Nechako Aboriginal Employment and Training Association (PGNAETA) offices -located at 198 Kingston St. - on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
Waite said she wants to see her family's birthright restored.
"I'm a member of the Quinn family. We are direct descendants of Chief Papaschase," she said. "Papaschase had five wives, we're from the first wife. My dad was his grandson. I grew up with that knowledge."