STOUGHTON – Ocean Man First Nation signed a landmark agreement Wednesday with Marc Miller, Minister of Crown‐Indigenous Relations on behalf of Canada, which officially recognizes Ocean Man’s status as a Treaty 4 First Nation.
Ocean Man adhered to Treaty No. 4 on Sept. 15, 1875. A reserve was subsequently surveyed and set apart for Ocean Man near present‐day Stoughton, and the people of Ocean Man occupied that land until 1901. In 1901, Canada wrongfully amalgamated Ocean Man with two nearby First Nations, Pheasant Rump Nakota First Nation and White Bear First Nations.
After the amalgamation, Canada stopped recognizing Ocean Man and Pheasant Rump as First Nations separate from White Bear. The people of Ocean Man and Pheasant Rump were moved to the White Bear reserve, and continued to reside there for the decades that followed.
In 1989, Ocean Man was formally recognized as a First Nation by Canada, despite the wrongful amalgamation of 1901. However, there was disagreement over whether the Ocean Man First Nation that was recognized in 1989, was the same band as the one that adhered to Treaty No. 4 in 1875.
Ocean Man and Canada signed the agreement under which Canada officially recognizes that Ocean Man has existed continually since 1875, has never been lawfully extinguished, amalgamated or dissolved, and has never surrendered its treaty rights.
"This agreement formally recognizes Canada’s ongoing Treaty relationship with Ocean Man First Nation, and their inherent rights under Treaty No. 4," said Miller. "We look forward to continuing to work together as treaty partners to advance reconciliation and build a better future based on community priorities. Congratulations to Chief Big Eagle, Elders and community members on this historic day."
The agreement was signed at a private ceremony held in Regina, attended by Ocean Man leadership and elders, and virtually by Miller and other federal government representatives. The signatures were followed by an exchange of gifts between Ocean Man and Canada, and ceremonial songs by a traditional hand drummer from Ocean Man.
The agreement is the product of years of negotiations between Ocean Man and Canada at a Recognition of Indigenous Rights and Self‐Determination (“RIRSD”) table, and marks the end of a prolonged period of disagreement between Ocean Man and Canada in respect of Ocean Man’s status as a Treaty 4 First Nation. While there remains much to be done at the RIRSD table as Ocean Man and Canada work towards reconciliation and righting the wrongs of 1901 and afterward, Ocean Man is hopeful today’s agreement will lead to meaningful progress in the months ahead.
Of the recognition agreement, Chief Connie Big Eagle said, “Ocean Man has been working toward and waiting for significant progress in our negotiations with Canada for many years. I want to acknowledge and thank all past and current Ocean Man leadership for their contributions in bringing us to the signing of this Recognition Agreement between Ocean Man and Canada.”
Ocean Man also wishes to thank Pheasant Rump and White Bear for their support at the RIRSD Table and in advancing Ocean Man’s aim of having its rights, history and nationhood finally recognized.