Cows and plows update: ‘Nothing yet’

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Further ‘cows and plows’ payments from the federal government to Bigstone Cree Nation appear to be pretty much dead in the water. But maybe not quite.

“It’s not completely over,” says Bigstone Chief Silas Yellowknee.

It is over, as far as the lawyer Bigstone had on the case is concerned.

“He said there’s nothing we can do,” Yellowknee says.

On the other hand, another First Nation (Yellowknee didn’t say which one) has been pursuing its own campaign for cows and plows money, apparently with some success. Yellowknee has been in touch and, “they’re telling me how they did it.”

So he’s not giving up.

“We’re waiting to see,” he says.

As we reported nearly three years ago, “the feds regard the matter as settled when the Treaty Land Entitlement was signed off” with Bigstone a few years ago.

Bigstone didn’t think so, and engaged a lawyer to pursue the matter. As noted above, that avenue has gone nowhere.

‘Cows and plows,’ for those unfamiliar, is the popular name for a commitment made back when the treaties were signed. It’s called the Agricultural Benefits Agreement. 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. But it mostly didn’t happen. There have been recent settlements with significant cash payouts. It appears circumstances vary, from First Nation to First Nation.

The matter came back to The Leader’s attention recently thanks to comments that continue to show up on, to the Sept. 2019 cows and plows article. In the article, Yellowknee said if there was a further cows and plows settlement “Every penny we get will go to the members.”

A recent online commenter suggested the money has been paid out, and Bigstone chief and council haven’t passed it on to the members. Yellowknee says he’s aware such notions exist, and wishes the people would talk to him instead of spreading incorrect information.
“I’ve always been transparent,” he says.

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