The first Treaty Land Sharing Network sign was erected Thursday morning at the McCreary farm near Bladworth, Sask.
The network is an alliance between farmers, ranchers and Indigenous land users throughout the province. The initiative is to bring farmers together to share their land with their Indigenous neighbours, allowing them to practice their inherent treaty rights.
“It was really a matter of, after Colton Boushie was killed, of wanting to find a way of starting better conversations in rural Saskatchewan,” farmer Ian McCreary said.
As part of the network, participating farms, and ranches will receive signs to erect on their land.
The signs show that the land owner wants it to be accessible to Indigenous peoples to gather plants and medicine, as well as to hunt and hold ceremonies.
“I think there are ways of increasing understanding,” McCreary stated. “I think there is a level of fear that exists among peoples that are different, and I think that by finding paths to develop relationships, we can find ways to better understand each other.”
“I’m still amazed,” hunter and Anishnabek Nation Treaty Authority member Brad Desjarlais said. “(To be able to) sit with farmers, and they’re inviting you on their land to do your treaty rights, it’s just, something that we’re not used to.”
Along with the TLSN signs, a website has been launched to show a directory of accessible network land, for any indigenous person looking to use it.
“We really need to honour the intent of treaty, which was the sharing of land,” McCreary’s wife, and TLSN Coordinating Committee Member Mary Smillie said. “We shouldn’t need these signs, it’s unfortunate that we do. So, if the signs become unnecessary, that’s what we’re hoping for.”
“I don’t think that will be in my lifetime,” Desjarlais said. “But, that’s something that we strive for.”
Saskatchewan’s Treaty Commissioner and land owner Mary Culbertson said that she’s proud to join the network, and is proud to take a sign home to display on her land.
“Unfortunately we have a lot of people in our province that make it bad for the rest of us,” Culbertson said. “That’s our responsibility to change that. It’s influence, it’s social pressure.”