Canada has been condemned by a government-appointed commission for the way it took land away from a First Nation in the Prairies.

“Not only did Canada fail to protect the Band from sharp and predatory practices,” says the Indian Claims Commission.

“Canada itself initiated these tainted dealings. Indian Affairs officials used their power and influence to pry valuable and viable lands away from the people of Kahkewistahaw, lands the government had been after for two decades,” the Commission says in a report, which accuses the government of having “exploited” the First Nation.

“In our view, this event marks a moral low ebb in the relationship between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians on the western Prairies.”

Indian Affairs pressured the people of Kahkewistahaw to give up their lands for 22 years. The First Nation always turned down the offers of cash and other promises, until the winter of 1907 when the people’s resolve was weakened by illness and the need for rations. Disease and starvation had already helped reduce the population from 365 to 84 in the 30 years since the First Nation had signed Treaty 4.

The surrender resulted in Kahkewistahaw, located 130 kilometres east of Regina, losing close to three-quarters of its land. They were left with the worst land, completely unsuited to cultivation.

The Commission recommends that the government take responsibility for what happened and resolve the issue “in a just and fair manner.”