It's our land
Liidlii Kue Chief Rita Cli supports sweeping changes

Dane Gibson
Northern News Services

Fort Simpson (Feb 28/00) - Liidlii Kue Chief Rita Cli (Fort Simpson) says that Northern aboriginal people are finally gaining a voice and exerting their inherent rights to govern their land -- and the federal and territorial government have no choice but to listen.

Cli agrees with Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus that aboriginal people are not full participants in the current government and that sweeping changes are inevitable.

"We've been saying all along that people go to their chief and council before they go to the GNWT," said Cli.

"They do that because they don't know the chain of command and are intimidated by the layers of bureaucracy that exist. My people come to me and I go to the GNWT."

Cli admits that there are many aboriginal employees at the territorial level, but said they often don't have the liberty or inclination to speak out against a system that is so "obviously inefficient."

"At our last leadership meeting, I told (NWT Premier) Stephen Kakfwi that they need to clean out the deadwood who are in the system due to protection clauses. They need to get rid of the old boys club," said Cli.

"I'm not telling him that because I think I know everything, I'm telling him that because that's what my people and the public are telling me."

While supporting the call for a new government framework, Cli concedes it's not going to come easy.

"There's many people out there that don't want to see the government lose power to First Nations," said Cli.

"Because of that, we have to have the political will to make changes. We have to constantly remind (the federal) government that we are the treaty holders, not the GNWT."