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As Membertou First Nation gears up for a possible referendum this fall on giving management of its land to the band council instead of the federal Indian Act and Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, it is yet another step by the Sydney-area First Nation to economic independence and self-government.
The Sydney band, guided by a citizen-based committee, has been consulting with elders, women, young people and band employees and members on a new land code, says Dan Christmas, senior adviser to the band.
One more consultation would be held before any referendum, tentatively scheduled for November, on the move.
Under the Indian Act, reserve lands are technically held by the Crown for the use of the band and the act gives the aboriginal affairs minister considerable power over land use.