Draft agreement reached in Akaitcho land claim process, says N.W.T. premier

N.W.T. Premier Caroline Cochrane stands out front of the Legislative Assembly building in Yellowknife in April 2020. Cochrane recently told the assembly that a draft agreement in principle had been reached with the Akaitcho Dene First Nations after decades of land claim and self government negotiations.

Land claim and self-government negotiations have been ongoing since the 1990s

N.W.T. Premier Caroline Cochrane says there has been progress on the Akaitcho land claims and self-government negotiation process.

The Akaitcho process involves the Akaitcho Dene First Nations, including the Yellowknives Dene First Nation (Dettah and Ndilǫ),  Łutsel K’e Dene First Nations and Deninu Kųę́ First Nation (Fort Resolution), and their federal and territorial counterparts.

In the Legislative Assembly on May 29, Cochrane said the three parties have entered into a draft agreement in principle. But as for what the agreement includes, neither the N.W.T. or the Akaitcho Dene First Nations will say.

“The initialling of these agreements reflects our government’s commitment to strengthening relationships with Indigenous governments and demonstrates our sincere interest in meaningful partnerships,” Cochrane said in the Legislative Assembly.

CBC News contacted the Akaitcho Treaty 8 Tribal Corporation, the representatives of the Akaitcho, by phone but was told the negotiations are confidential.

CBC News also contacted the premier and was told by Nicole Bonnell, a spokesperson for the territorial government, by email that the “terms of the agreement are held in confidence by the parties and would only be shared with other Indigenous parties for consultation purposes on a confidential basis.”

Asserted territory in the Akaitcho process. (Government of the Northwest Territories)

Bonnell said in the email that an agreement in principle is the basis for a final agreement.

The negotiations between the Akaitcho, the N.W.T. and Canada have been ongoing since the 1990s, with the latest round starting in the early 2000s.

This is the first update on that process in years.

In 2019, Fred Sangris, who was the Yellowknives Dene First Nation’s negotiator in the Akaitcho process, and is currently Ndilǫ’s chief, said an agreement in principle was expected within the year.

In 2007, the territorial government and the Akaitcho reached an agreement on an interim land withdrawal of 62,000 square kilometres within the Akaitcho traditional territory. This is formerly Crown land that the territorial government took over, and the withdrawal means no development can take place until an agreement is reached.

The interim withdrawal also involves 1,000 square kilometres in Yellowknife.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Canada’s Nunavut Inuit organization plans to seek self-government, CBC News

Finland: Arctic railway dream fades away as Sami herders signal ‘veto’, Eye on the Arctic special report

Russia: Authorities in northwest Russia move to protect wild reindeer, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Sami indigenous village wins historic land use case over Swedish state, Radio Sweden

Luke Caroll, CBC News

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