Pipeline agreement reached
Aboriginal groups change stance on project

Daniel MacIsaac
Northern News Services

Inuvik (Feb 04/00) - Inuvik regional aboriginal leaders say they are firmly behind last Thursday's agreement to push for the development of a Mackenzie Valley pipeline.

More than 100 aboriginal leaders, elders, business leaders, council members and youth from all six regions in the territory came together in Fort Liard and issued the following statement.

"We, the aboriginal people of the Northwest Territories, agreed in principle to build a business partnership to maximize ownership and benefits of a Mackenzie Valley pipeline."

Acho Dene Koe Chief Harry Deneron hosted the two-day meeting.

"It has been almost 25 years since we said no to pipeline development, now we have all agreed we are ready to move forward," he said. "We came out united."

Dennie Lennie, chair of the Inuvialuit Development Corporation, said all the major aboriginal groups -- the Inuvialuit, Gwich'in, Dogrib, Deh Cho Nation, Treaty 11 and Sahtu Secretariat -- agreed to appoint representatives to development council. Deneron will serve as council chair.

"It's a pretty broad agenda, but basically everybody was fully supportive of the pipeline," he said. "It's possible that with the co-operation of all the groups the process can be simplified, but when a mega project like this comes along it's a huge undertaking for any company."

Abe Wilson, Tetlit Gwich'in Council band chief in Fort McPherson, also attended the Fort Liard meeting and said the project represents work and benefits for every region in the territory but that details like the pipeline's route and ownership are still to be determined.

"The environment's also going to be the main question," he said, "but all the groups have land claims and management regimes in place and we'll deal with concerns as they come up -- I think they're ready to go ahead," said Wilson.

Lennie said the Sahtu has offered to host the next meeting, which will likely take place in March.