The Dakota Tipi First Nation in Manitoba is filjng a legal challenge to Indian and Northern Affairs Minister Robert Nault’s decision to place an Indian Agent to run the First Nation’s affairs.

On April 5, solicitor Norman Boudreau filed Chief Dennis Pashe’s action in Federal Court to have Nault’s action quashed and set aside as being beyond his jurisdiction, failing to observe principles of natural justice and procedural fairness, basing his decision on erroneous finding, and acted in a perverse and capricious manner without regard to the facts.

Chief Pashe alleges that Nault is violating the aboriginal right of the Dakota Tipi First Nation to select its leadership according to its own custom – and that right is recognized and affirmed in Canada’s constitution. “It’s the people of Dakota Tipi who have an established historic right to determine their leadership who give me my power as Chief, not the Indian Act,” Pashe said in announcing the court action. “The Minister has no power to deny the people that right.” Pashe warned Nault’s action, if left unchallenged, threatens all of the more than three hundred First Nation communities across Canada who do not fall under the provisions of the Indian Act. “If Nault can move in wherever he wants without consultation or due process, each First Nation’s right to self-government can get its death warrant any day.” Nault’s Governance Act, expected to be tabled in Parliament next month, will bring an end to the right of First Nations to’choose their leadership in their customary manner, Pashe predicts.

Dakota Tipi is one of the tiniest reserves in Canada – just thirty acres. The first Dakota Tipi reserve was purchased in the 1890s by the ancestors of the current inhabitants from their own earnings as farm workers in the Portage la Prairie area. Then in the 1950s, to move the Dakota people out of the town of Portage, their urban lands were taken over by the government and they were moved to their current 30-acre location on the outskirts of town.