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The nature of pipelines

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services

Kakisa (July 04/05) - Thomas Berger feels the last 30 years have been well spent by aboriginal people in the NWT.

The author of a landmark report on the proposed Mackenzie Valley pipeline notes a lot of land has been protected from development over the last three decades and Aboriginal people have become players in the economy, instead of spectators.

"I think what you have done so far is absolutely marvellous," he said June 28 before the Dehcho Annual Assembly in Kakisa.

Back in the 1970s, Berger recommended the pipeline not be built until land claims were settled.

He declined to offer an opinion on today's pipeline development issues.

"I can't be recruited to one side or the other of the pipeline debate."

Berger was in Kakisa as part of a tour retracing his inquiry travels for the CBC TV program The Nature of Things.

Participants at the Dehcho assembly became nostalgic upon seeing Berger.

"I've seen Justice Berger before and I'm glad to see him again," said elder Ted Landry of Fort Providence.

Elder Jim Thomas of West Point First Nation in Hay River thanked Berger for helping the NWT's native people in their struggles during the 1970s.

"It was our land then and it's still our land," Thomas said.

Chief Lloyd Chicot of Kakisa recalled seeing Berger as a child.

"The same issues we were talking about then are still on the table," Chicot noted.

Berger travelled the valley and heard from about 1,000 aboriginal people before writing his report for the federal government.

"It was a report based on what you had told me," Berger told the Dehcho assembly.

The Nature of Things report on Berger's travels will be broadcast Nov. 16.