It was created to keep us out of sight and out of mind. They put us on these small little tracts of land called reservations. I was raised by my grandparents. My grandfather, as a young man, if he wanted to leave Whitecap to get supplies, had to get a pass. If he wanted to sell his livestock, he had to get a permit from the Indian agent. If he wanted to sell a crop, he had to get a permit from the Indian agent. So, here we were, living in a so-called free country under dictatorship rule, which was the Indian agent. We didn't have the same opportunities as other jurisdictions.
Every other jurisdiction surrounding Whitecap or any of our first nation communities in Canada had the opportunity to invest in infrastructure, develop its economy and create jobs, opportunities and even hope. Then you add insult to injury with residential schools where they wanted to take the Indian out of the Indian, and they started moving all the youth. Parents didn't even see their children for 10 months of the year. Sadly, sometimes some of those children passed away during the school year and the parents weren't told about it until the end of the school year. So, the parenting skills.... You know, you talk about the residential schools taking away culture, language, pride, identity and even the ability to parent. My mother went to a residential school and, hence, she never did raise me. I was raised by my grandparents. So, it's been difficult.
That said, when we first started looking at economic development, we started saying that, as indigenous people, we need to take our rightful place and be a part of the economy. How can we get there? The Indian Act is very restrictive. If we want to, say, lease a piece of our land, we would have to do a land designation, a land surrender, and then have the minister sign off on the lease. That takes three years. By that time, the window of opportunity is gone; the business is going to move away.
When 14 first nations, including Muskoday from Saskatchewan, were lobbying the federal government to create the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management, which was a government-to-government agreement, and to enable the first nations to self-govern their lands, once we heard about that we embraced it. We took that forward to our community, and back in 2004, we ratified our land code. Now we self-govern our lands. We eliminated 25% of the Indian Act.
That first nation land management initiative enabled our community to not just self-govern our lands, but to also do the land planning, zoning, and development standards, getting our lands ready for economic development and then opening our doors. Our first business was Dakota Dunes Golf Links, which opened back in 2005. The course itself was recognized by Golf Digest as one of the best new golf courses in Canada, ranked number 16 in the country and number one in Saskatchewan.
Then from there there was a casino in Saskatoon that was going to be built, but the citizens had a plebiscite. Whitecap was plan B, and it became plan A. Again, because we had our land code in place, we didn't have to go through that process, that three-year window. We actually gave Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority a lease immediately. We can move at the speed of business, and that's very important. Now, of course, we also have a store, and we are in the first phase of our business park. We have a hotel under construction right now to add to the resort area. Then we're also bringing a Nordic spa to Saskatchewan. We'll start that project later this year, and we'll be opening up next year.
So, there are 225 more jobs coming, and there are 600 now. That was all driven by saying, “We want to be part of the economy. We need solutions, and we're not afraid to partner. We're not afraid to work alone.” I think it's important to have allies out there. When you start looking at the opportunities.... We've always had a strong focus on education since I was elected back in 1994—this is my 25th year as chief—but just approaching the Saskatoon Public Schools and saying this is what we want to do.... Now we have it to an actual formal agreement and a real strong relationship. We're hopeful that, again, Indigenous Services Canada can look at our agreement and say, “This is beyond a regional education authority”, because that's one of the things that it keeps throwing back at us: “Well, you don't qualify for this funding because you're not a regional education authority. You don't qualify for this because you're not a regional education authority.” We're saying, “We have all the capacities and more of a regional educational authority, so when are you going to wake up?” That's one of the challenges that we're having with the bureaucrats.