Tłı̨chǫ community in northern Canada commemorates 100 years of Treaty 11 with new exhibit

‘100 years later we are on the path that recognizes our nation and our land,’ said Tłı̨chǫ Grand Chief George Mackenzie during Friday’s celebratory opening event. (Eden Maury/CBC)

The exhibit shares stories of the treaty from the perspective of Tłı̨chǫ people

The Tłı̨chǫ community is commemorating 100 years since the signing of Treaty 11 with the opening of a new exhibit at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in Yellowknife.

The Tłı̨chǫ government, Tłı̨chǫ citizens and the heritage centre came together Friday to celebrate the opening of the Treaty 11 – 100 Years exhibit with a fire feeding ceremony, remarks from the community as well as tea and bannock.

The exhibit includes unique artifacts such as the treaty medal from the region, a hand-sewn replica of a jacket given to chiefs as part of the treaty agreement and a pair of moccasin pointed toe slippers.

Treaty 11, the last of Canada’s numbered treaties with First Nations, was signed on August 22, 1921 by Chief Mǫwhì in Behchokǫ̀, N.W.T.

Sharing Tłı̨chǫ stories

Karen Gelderberg is the implementation facilitator in the department of culture and lands protection with the Tłı̨chǫ government. She was one of the leading forces that put the exhibit together.

While organizing the exhibit, she said she spoke with many Tłı̨chǫ community members to share stories about the treaty from the point of view of Tłı̨chǫ people.

“Since the signing of Treaty 11, there have been difficulties, there’s broken promises, but there’s many, many stories,” said Gelderman. “I hope people are inspired to find out more and to talk to people and get as much perspective as possible.”

She started organizing the exhibit over a year ago, and says the most rewarding part has been having conversations with Tłı̨chǫ people about the meaning of Treaty 11, self-government and land claims.

“I’ve learned so much and that’s been the real benefit to me.”

Connection to self-governance

Gelderman said Treaty 11 – 100 Years is a good opportunity for non-Indigenous northerners to learn more about the history and perspectives of the treaty signing and everything that came after that.

“I think we have a duty to be as well-informed as we can and learn what we can about treaty relationships and listen to the perspectives that are out there,” said Gelderman.

In a statement, Tłı̨chǫ Grand Chief George Mackenzie said the exhibit tells the story of the signing of Treaty 11 and its connection to present day self-government.

“Chief Mǫwhì knew what was coming and 100 years later we are on the path that recognizes our nation and our land,” said Mackenzie.

Gelderman adds that the 100th anniversary of the signing of Treaty 11 is a cause for celebration because it highlights memories of annual Treaty days.

That was when “the Tłı̨chǫ people would travel by canoe, gather and celebrate together with traditional dances and feasts,” according to Mackenzie.

The exhibit will be open for the public at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre for about a year.

Related stories from around the North: 

Karina Zapata, CBC News

Karina is a 2021 Joan Donaldson Scholar, currently working with the CBC North - Yellowknife newsroom.

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