DIAND denies "no consultation" charge
by Arthur Milnes
FORT PROVIDENCE (Oct 10/97) - A mineral exploration permit, issued Sept. 26 by the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, has provoked quite a response in Fort Providence.
The permit concerns lands that are claimed by the Deh Gah Got'ie First Nation and are located along the Horn River.
Over the weekend, a group from Fort Providence travelled to the area to construct tent frames and undertake activities asserting aboriginal rights and title in the immediate area of the mineral explorations. This was confirmed by an official with the Deh Gah Got'ie Dene Council office Monday afternoon.
"It may get serious," Deh Gah Got'ie Chief Joachim Bonnetrouge said last Thursday. "I told the people earlier today that we going to be very cautious. We're going to be careful not to take the law into our own hands."
Chief Bonnetrouge said the main issue for his people is that DIAND issued the permit without consulting locally.
The Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development's (DIAND) director of operations, denies this charge.
"We received the application in May," Floyd Adlem said on Monday. "It was sent to the community at that time. Most recently, we met with the chief and council (in Fort Providence) in late September."
"There's been quite a bit of consultation, despite what the chief says."
Adlem also said that DIAND's hands are tied until the Deh Cho First Nations (DCFN) begin to negotiate some form of agreement with Ottawa.
"Until there is some kind of process, we're in the position where we have to operate under existing regulations and policies," he said. "Until there is some new negotiated land and resource and self-government agreements, the department has to keep operating."
On Monday, the DCFN also waded into the dispute, full square behind the Deh Gah Got'ie Dene Council.
"The Deh Cho Moratorium passed unanimously in the Kakisa Assembly of August 1997, set in place a suspension of operations which exploit Dene lands and resources by foreigners and third-party interests of the federal government," a DCFN statement states. "While the Dene appreciate and value well-managed development, we are also obligated by our laws to fulfill our duties as keepers of the land."
"The land in question is situated north of the community. The area is known for abundant wildlife population and a sensitive ecological domain that forms a watershed that flows into the Horn River and into the heart of the Deh Cho Territory. Legends and stories of the Deh Cho point to the area as spiritually significant and sacred."