The Bearspaw First Nation has succeeded in gaining full control over its capital funds from the federal government, amounting to approximately $53 million.
Chief Darcy Dixon calls it an important and historic event for the Bearspaw Nation.
"Throughout the years, we have continuously asserted our right to self-determination, including the right to control our lands, resources, and money," Chief Dixon says in a written statement. "With the establishment of our own Ozija Thiha Legacy Trust for both our present and future generations, we have placed the Bearspaw Nation on a solid financial footing for the betterment of our people and a promising future."
He says after many disappointments, the Bearspaw Chief and Council were able to work collaboratively with Indigenous Services minister Marc Miller and his department to bring about a positive conclusion to this long-standing matter.
Bearspaw Nation CEO Rob Shotclose says it was likely a combination of reasons that lead to the signing of the ministerial order by Miller on Aug. 13. Possibly impacting the decision was the pressure of public awareness created by the media, and the election that was announced just over a day later.
While these may have been factors, he says Indigenous Services likes to do its due diligence before reaching decisions.
"I know the department likes to be careful in consideration of Stoney, of course with the three bands, to get feedback from all three on various issues, even if it's more directed to one Nation than the other two."
"We've been doing back and forth emails to various offices, and I think it got their attention that they might as well sign it because all the due diligence had been done already."
He says Bearspaw Nation has been entirely transparent with other Nations and anyone interested in learning about their intentions through conversation, its website, and social media.
"COVID made it a little bit difficult, but I think we've done a good job, and I think the department recognized it too, calling it one of the most thorough events they've seen a First Nation do on consultation with its membership."
The Ozija Thiha Legacy Trust will operate independently from Bearspaw Chief and Council and will retain professional trustees to manage the fund. It is similar to other Indigenous trust funds established over the last 15 years by other Nations that have proven to be successful.
Shotclose says work on how best to invest the money is likely already happening in the background while they await the funds to be transferred.
He says the Bearspaw council will meet after the current break to clean up some of the details.