A major agreement towards self-sustainability was signed today between Ottawa and the Whitecap Dakota First Nation.

The deal marks the start of a process for determining the band’s law-making powers, including how it will manage its resources, preserve culture and build on local business.

In a release, Chief Darcy Bear says the agreement also kick-starts the process towards signing a self-government agreement with Ottawa.

Officials with the Aboriginal Affairs department say 18 bands across Canada have already signed self-government deals with the federal government, but Whitecap would be the first in Saskatchewan to complete the process.

The Meadow Lake Tribal Council had previously reached an agreement in principle.

Meantime, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations is applauding this latest development.

Shawn Atleo says he hopes the Harper government is open to more of these deals in the future:

“Are they more willing to do that? I believe that in part, perhaps this is more of a major tipping point that I would hope we’ve arrived at…where it makes no sense that we’ve got the kind of deep disparity and gap between First Nations and the rest of Canada.”

Atleo adds the move also bolsters the argument that problems affecting First Nations need to be solved through a rights-based approach.