To lease or not to lease.
Blood Tribe members voted on a land designation referendum at the end of March, deciding on whether or not to allow businesses owned by Blood Tribe members, as well as non-members, to open on the reserve.
“Under the Indian Act, chief and council doesn’t have the authority to designate land for lease; it’s up to the people,” said Blood Tribe council member Hank Shade.
The referendum passed by a single vote, with 318 people voting for the referendum and 317 against.
According to the Act, a successful vote only needs to be 50 per cent plus one of all votes cast.
Council says this step needed to be taken for more economic growth on the reserve.
“A study done 10 years ago showed that the Blood Tribe and the members spent about $220,000,000 in the surrounding communities,” Shade said. “That, in turn, creates over 2,000 jobs in the surrounding communities. So that’s why we had the designation vote — we want to turn that around.”
The land designation referendum was voted on for two areas on the Blood Reserve: Mocassin Flats Plaza and the Kainai Industries Area.
The new designation gives Blood Tribe chief and council a 99-year lease on the land. The council will now be able to sublease the land to commercial or industrial businesses.
“What the Blood Tribe government is doing is what all governments try to do and that’s to develop the economy by creating an environment that attracts business, business investment, and really that creates jobs,” Shade said.
But some Blood Tribe members don’t think that will happen and voted against the referendum.
“I was against it because we have leased our land out before and it didn’t give anybody jobs,” said Tina Standing Alone.
“And then these jobs that they’re talking about bringing in — Safeway and the oil and gas and all that — we’ve had them here before and they haven’t employed any of our people.”
Voter turnout for the referendum was low, with only 635 votes cast, representing less than 10 per cent of eligible voters.
Chief and council say they are going to spend the next year evaluating all proposals before deciding the next step forward.