It's a deal
Smith's Landing First Nation ratifies AIP
Fact File
February 1998: Canada agreed to formally recognize Smith's Landing as a First Nation (SLFN)
January 1999: Band holds first official meeting at the new band office in Fort Fitzgerald, Alta.
June 1999: Agreement in Principal (AIP) reached between Canada, Alberta and SLFN
January 2000: Agreement ratified by band members
January 2000: Smith's Landing First Nation formally recognized as Alberta's 44th First Nation
Claim includes: Six parcels of land totalling 19,000 acres with up to 5,000 located with Wood Buffalo National Park and $28 million in cash

Terry Halifax
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Feb 07/00) - The newest First Nation in the North has ratified a land claim agreement after only a year of negotiations.

Smith's Landing First Nation held a ratification vote on an agreement in principle Jan. 28.

The vote was met with almost unanimous agreement, said Glenn Luff, director of communications for the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, Alberta.

"There were 172 eligible electors. Of those, 145 voted and of those 145 casting a ballot, 144 voted in favour and one voted against," Luff said. "That's a fairly resounding voice."

The band voted to support a treaty that entitles them to six parcels of land totalling 19,000 acres (7,600 hectares) and a cash settlement of $28 million.

Luff said the lands are located just south of the 60th parallel and up to 5,000 acres (2,000 hectares) of the total land package will be within the boundaries of Wood Buffalo National Park.

The cash will be a one-time payment.

"The money is an up-front payment to the First Nation," he said. "It still has to go through some approvals within the federal government process, but once all those are signed off, it will be a full payment of the $28 million to the First Nation."

Luff said the vote of the membership was the next step in the treaty process.

"The ratification of the land claim requires 50 per cent plus one of all eligible voters," he said.

The next step for the band is just a few formalities, Luff said.

"It requires all the appropriate signatures and approvals from the government and we don't anticipate any problem with that," he said. "I expect there will be a formal signing ceremony sometime this spring."

Smith's Landing's band office is located just across the NWT/Alberta border in Fort Fitzgerald. The band split from the Salt River First Nation to form their own First Nation in 1998.

The Agreement in Principle was reached in June 1999, but only just now ratified by the band.

Band officials could not be reached for comment as of press time.