The people of two Saskatchewan First Nations who saw their land unlawfully taken almost 100 years agoare finally getting a hearing from Indian Affairs.

The people of the Moosomin First Nation, near Battleford, were under tremenous pressure from settlersand politicians to surrender their reserve in the late 1800s. The reserve was located

on 15,360 acres of some of the best farming land in Saskatchewan.

In 1909, after refusing to surrender their land several times, they succumbed to the pressure in a votethat may have been fraudulent. The band was relocated against its will to a remote area that wasdescribed as “hilly, stony, in a frost belt and practially useless as a farming proposition.” Theband’s livelihood was destroyed.

After Indian Affairs rejected the band’s land claim, the Moosomin appealed to the Indian ClaimsCommission. In May 1997, the commission condemned the government for its role in the surrender,calling it “foolish, improvident and exploitative.”

The government finally agreed to negotiate last month.

The case of the Moosomin is just one of many reviewed by the commission.

Another is the 1907 surrender of the Kahkewistahaw First Nation, 130 km east of Regina. This band wasin the same situation, on prime land coveted by others. After relentless pressure, they were relocatedto a steep escarpment of the Qu’Appelle Valley on land completely unsuited to the farming way of lifethey had adopted. The First Nation argued that the surrender was made under duress, in the middle ofthe winter when the community was ravaged by illness and had no food. Indian Affairs initially rejectedthis claim too, but agreed to negotiate after the Indian Claims Commission looked into the case.

The Homalco people of Bute Inlet and Campbell River, B.C., were not as lucky. The commission accusedCanada of failing to protect their interest from outside interests, but Indian Affairs rejected theirclaim and said it won’t negotiate.