Sorting out the details
Deh Cho First Nations ensure provisions are adequate

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

HAY RIVER (Oct 15/99) - "I think the question to be asked is, 'What does the GNWT want from the Deh Cho?'"

That was Deh Cho First Nations (DCFN) Grand Chief Michael Nadli's response to the question of what role the GNWT will play in terms of regional self-government negotiations.

During a leadership assembly on the Hay River Reserve last week, the DCFN passed a resolution that will see it further delve into what function, if any, the territorial government might have in the self-government process. A workshop will be held on the matter, although no time or date has yet been set.

As for the topic of funding for the negotiations, Nadli said the chief negotiator has been authorized to research funding options through the federal government's "Gathering Strength" policy. While the policy itself could complement the self-government process, Nadli didn't sound optimistic about the funding status, describing it as "minuscule" and "sporadic." The federal government, he contended, has a hold on the purse strings and can coerce First Nations into bargaining for less than they demand.

"And that's not fair," said Nadli, adding that, ideally, funding wouldn't be tied to the federal government. "For us to negotiate with Canada, we need to access those resources so that our negotiations reflect what our people want. If we're successful through our negotiations as First Nations, we'll be independent and not rely on the federal government."

He added that the negotiations should be an open process and discussions should also take place in the Deh Cho, not just in Ottawa.

Within the same resolution, the DCFN accepted, in principle, the concept of a tri-partite panel to oversee land and resource protection -- provided the chair of the panel is acceptable to the DCFN and the panel is directed to respect traditional Dene land values.

Nadli said the tri-partite panel, which has not yet been defined in terms of who will sit as members, will be a means to the protect the lands while negotiations are taking place. While DCFN land moratorium exists in the Deh Cho, the interim panel would help to enlist the support of other parties, such as the government, to ensure companies do not "alienate" the lands from the DCFN during self-government talks, Nadli explained.

During the leadership meeting, new members were elected to the executive committee, and they will serve until the next Deh Cho Assembly in Kakisa in August 2000. They are: Chief Tim Lennie of Wrigley; Chief Greg Nyuli of Fort Providence; elder Ted Landry of Fort Providence; elder Daniel Sonfrere of Hay River Reserve; DCFN member-at-large Shirley Bonnetrouge of Hay River Reserve and DCFN member-at-large Gerald Antoine of Fort Simpson.

Among the other resolutions passed at last week's meetings were:

-- The DCFN supports the establishment of a protected area on the Horn Plateau where no industrial or commercial activities will take place...

-- The DCFN will provide the necessary assistance to the Acho Dene Koe in its efforts to secure its western boundary.

-- The grand chief and the negotiating team will work closely with the chief and council of Nahanni Butte First Nation to ensure that any issuance of oil and gas exploration permits within the Nahanni Butte territory takes place only in a manner which is consistent with the Deh Cho Process and the 21 Common Ground Principles.

-- A one-kilometre corridor along the highways and roads in the Deh Cho be closed to hunting.

-- The DCFN will prepare a presentation to Erica Daes, chair rapporteur of a United Nations study on land rights...on the history and negotiations in the Deh Cho and the concerns raised by the citizens of the Deh Cho on the matters related to land rights and the international status of the Treaties 8 and 11 concluded with the British Crown in 1899, 1921 and 1922.