Making up is hard to do
Enge hopes land claim meeting paves the way for unifying Metis in Yellowknife

Darren Campbell
Northern News Services

NNSL (Sep 11/98) - Bill Enge is hoping Tuesday night's meeting is a start of a new day for Metis in Yellowknife.

After over a year of division within the Metis community in Yellowknife, Enge, president of Yellowknife Metis Local #66, feels the meeting might be a start to unifying the Metis.

Last summer members of Local #66 broke away and created Yellowknife Local #77. They broke away over concerns that non-indigenous Metis in the North Slave didn't have voting power in Local #66.

"What I see happening is we are establishing a dialogue among Metis in Yellowknife," said Enge.

Tuesday's meeting was intended to be a North Slave Metis land claim information meeting. What the approximately 25 people learned is the North Slave Metis Alliance in June tried to initiate land claim negotiations with the federal government.

The question that remains is, where do the North Slave Metis Alliance go from here? Helping them with that question was Alberta senator Thelma Chalifoux, who is also Metis.

She said the way the North Slave Metis will get their claim heard by the federal government is to develop a framework for it. That would give the Metis something concrete to give to Indian Affairs minister Jane Stewart.

Just as important to the claim though is an enumeration of all the North Slave beneficiaries.

Chalifoux also made it clear that the claim will not go anywhere unless all the Metis in Yellowknife start working together.

"As long as you are split and fragmented you will never get anywhere," said Chalifoux.

A main bone of contention among some Metis in Yellowknife has been the criteria for being a beneficiary for the land claim.

To be recognized as a beneficiary now, you must be a direct descendant of a Dene or Metis person who resided in, used, or occupied the North Slave region on or before 1921 -- the date Treaty 11 was signed.

Enge noted that Yellowknife has a large population of Metis, termed non-indigenous, who don't meet that criteria. That has caused friction in the Yellowknife Metis community because they feel there is nothing for them in the claim.

"We've had difficulties determining how non-indigenous Metis can participate in land claims," said Enge.

But Enge said while he can't see allowing a non-indigenous Metis to negotiate a land claim for indigenous Metis, there will be opportunities for them once the claim is settled.

Chalifoux added that the alliance should look at ways of bringing in non-indigenous Metis into fold.