Alberta First Nation votes to accept $150M settlement over mismanaged cattle

Ottawa accepted the claim in 2011, negotiations began in 2013 and an agreement was reached last year

Members of a southern Alberta First Nation have voted to accept a $150-million settlement from the federal government.

The Blood Tribe filed a claim nearly two decades ago alleging that Canada had mismanaged their once lucrative cattle business in the early 1900s.

Ottawa accepted the claim in 2011, negotiations began in 2013 and an agreement was reached late last year.

Blood members needed to ratify the deal, and a news release says it has been approved by more than 98 per cent of those who voted this week.

Each of the Blood Tribe’s more than 12,000 members are to receive $2,000.

Settlement funds are also to go to capital projects such as a hotel and events centre, treatment centre, hockey rink and housing.

“There’s something there to go towards everybody’s interests on the reserve,” council member Dorothy First Rider said in a YouTube video posted to the Blood Tribe’s website ahead of Monday’s vote.

She recounted how the Blood Tribe purchased a cattle herd more than a century ago that eventually grew to 5,000 head.

But Indian Affairs told the First Nation ”we can better manage the cattle for you. We will take over the management of your cattle,” she said.

First Rider said land was leased to non-Blood-Tribe members, there was overgrazing and many animals died over several bad winters.

“Indian Affairs were not taking care of them properly.”

First Rider said $150 million is the maximum amount a First Nation can receive from a specific claim.

For the deal to pass, there had to be at least a 25 per cent turnout with a simple majority in favour. The Blood Tribe’s chief and council said late Tuesday that 40 per cent of eligible voters turned out and only 49 of 3,015 people voted against the deal.

Voting was held on the reserve, more than 200 kilometres southeast of Calgary, and in the city. Transportation was provided for members in nearby Lethbridge as well.

By Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

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