Cows and Plows: ‘Every penny we get will go to the members’

Bigstone chief says it’s in the hands of the lawyers

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

There’s a rumour out there (when isn’t there?) that Bigstone Cree Nation members are getting a payout under the ‘Cows and Plows’ program. That’s the common term for the Agricultural Benefits Agreement, which goes back to a 100-year-old unfulfilled promised made by Treaty 8 negotiators.

The pledge at the time was that for native families that wanted to take up farming, the Crown would provide the means to do that. By and large, it never happened.

Negotiations on addressing that breach have been going on for some time, and in the last year or so there have been some payouts by the federal government.

In the case of Bigstone, the feds regarded the matter as settled when the Treaty Land Entitlement was signed off on a few years ago. But not so fast.

Chief Silas Yellowknee says an Edmonton lawyer is working on the case for Bigstone. He’s got a box full of documents, including minutes of all the pertinent negotiations leading up to the treaty settlement for Bigstone.

“That was three months ago,” Yellowknee says. “He requested more information. That’s where we’re sitting.”

So rumours that there is a payment coming are premature. There might be one is more like it.

Yellowknee says what got Bigstone thinking there might be more Cows and Plows money is when other First Nations got some hefty payouts. So the question was asked of the feds that went more or less like this: ‘If they qualify for that much, how about us?’ The answer, Yellowknee says, was “Nope. The file is closed.”

But as far as Bigstone is concerned it isn’t closed, and they are hopeful they’ll get what they feel is coming to them. How that turns out is in the hands of the legal and government people. One thing Yellowknee is willing to say for sure is what will be done with the money if it does come to Bigstone.

“Every penny we get will go to the members.”

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