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Serge Simon, right, and others collect signatures for their treaty to resist all tar sand-related development. (Jason Warick/CBC) First Nations must break their reliance on oil and gas revenues and resist all tar sand-related development, a chief told Assembly of First Nations delegates Thursday.

"We have other economic, political options. We just have to start banding together," Serge Otis Simon, grand chief of the Kanasetake Mohawk Council, told the 1,300 delegates gathered for the AFN assembly in Regina.

Simon said there will surely be "short-term pain," but the transition away from fossil fuels is necessary.

His message was met with mixed reaction. He acknowledged many First Nations, particularly those in Saskatchewan and Alberta, are reaping sizable benefits from oil and gas exploration and pipeline development.

"Don’t look at us as enemies. Come talk to us, our future generations are at risk," said Simon, who presented on behalf of the Treaty Alliance Against Tars Sands Expansion.

The group is travelling the country asking First Nations to sign their treaty, which calls the Alberta oilsands "the dirtiest oil on the planet." Serge Otis Simon, grand chief of the Kanasetake Mohawk Council, spoke to the 1,300 delegates gathered for the AFN assembly in Regina. (Jason Warick/CBC) They say more than 130 First Nations have signed so far. Only three of Saskatchewan’s 74 First Nations have signed, but Simon said their work in this area is just beginning.

"It takes time to build up," he said.

AFN Chief Perry Bellegarde said it’s important to allow all perspectives to be heard at the assembly. Bellegarde said it’s unrealistic to expect the 600-plus First Nations to have a homogenous opinion on contentious topics such as fossil fuel development, but he hopes they can learn from each other.

The assembly is also hearing resolutions throughout the day on topics ranging from fisheries to language to health care.

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