by P.J. Harston
Northern News Services
NNSL (OCT 28/96) - It's early in the morning of April 1, 1999 - a Thursday.
You wake up to a brand new day in a brand new era in the history of the North.
of the West
The communities that remain after Denendeh and Nunavut split from the NWT will presumably remain the Northwest Territories.
The Sahtu, Inuvik and North Slave regions will pack an enormous Northern economic punch: about 19 communities with a total population of nearly 25,000.
Mining and tourism will drive the economy of a territory that now stretches from Sachs Harbour to Reliance and from Tuktoyaktuk to Yellowknife.
Yellowknife, the territorial capital, contains roughly 70 per cent of the NWT's entire population.
News/North tried to reach Aboriginal Affairs Minister Jim Antoine - who is Gerald Antoine's brother and the MLA for the Fort Simpson-based Nahendeh riding - for his view on the future, but he was not available for comment.
Your territory is now less than half the size it was the day before. The population has shrunk and you've got a new government that promises to be more fair than the one that came before it.
But brace yourself - it's not what you think.
The new province of Denendeh now includes all communities in the Deh Cho, along with Fort Smith, Hay River, Kakisa, Lutselk'e and Fort Resolution - a significant portion of what was to become the Western Territory.
It contains about 10,000 people, roughly one-third of the population of what was once the western Arctic.
"Sure, everything's changed - but it's a much better place to live with a true form of public government based on Dene values and principals," says Gerald Antoine, grand ghief of the Deh Cho First Nations.
He visualizes a resource-rich jurisdiction that embraces tourism. One in which government policy is made by Dene elders and enforced the old-fashioned way.
"The constitution will embody Dene values and principles such as sharing, respect, honesty and integrity," said Antoine. "It will be a truly public form of government."
"It will be the first time the federal government has recognized the rights of aboriginals and allowed them to be involved in amending the NWT Act," he says.
At the lowest level of Denendeh's government structure will be community councils run by family representatives.
"Non-Dene rights will be respected and represented within the government, but non-aboriginals will have to learn more about Dene values and principles," says Antoine.
Each First Nation will have a say on what goes on in its region and memoranda of understanding on the sharing of resources will be signed by all communities.
"Dene elders would represent the province at the federal and interprovincial level," says Antoine.
Federal transfer payments would be funnelled directly into Denendeh coffers from Ottawa.
"It's not impossible," he says. "And we've got three years to bring everyone on-side with our plan. It can be done."