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Sahtu Dene pull up to devolution table
First Dene government signs Devolution Agreement-in-Principle

Danielle Sachs
Northern News Services
Published Monday, May 28, 2012

Sahtu Secretariat Incorporated (SSI) has become the first Dene government to sign the NWT Devolution Agreement-in-Principle (AIP).

NNSL photo/graphic

Grand Chief of the Sahtu Dene council, Frank Andrew, signs the Agreement in Principle as Ethel Blondin-Andrew looks on. - Danielle Sachs/NNSL photo

Ethel Blondin-Andrew, chairperson of SSI, signed the agreement on behalf of the Sahtu Dene.

Premier Bob McLeod said he was pleased the Sahtu has become full partners in the negotiations for devolution.

"It's important we work together to achieve our common goals," he said. "We are bringing decision-making where it truly belongs, in the hands of Northerners."

Grand Chief of the Sahtu Dene Council, Frank Andrew, said the decision to sign the agreement did not come without a lot of talk and inner struggles.

"We had a lot of discussions," he said. "In the end everyone decided unanimously that this was the best option for us. We've been talking about devolution for a long time. We came to an agreement among ourselves in the Sahtu region that this is where we should go."

McLeod wants a final agreement signed by the end of 2012. It would then take 18 months to complete and finalize. The premier said the devolution agreement is about valuing the input of all Northerners. "It's about building a stronger future," he said, adding he believes the Sahtu's decision is a good step towards more negotiations with other groups.

"We're having discussions with Dehcho and Ndilo," McLeod said.

Blondin-Andrew said one of the things that might convince other groups to join is the fact that all their revenue goes to the federal government.

"How much do we get," she asked. "That's a huge negotiation point."

John Duncan, the minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, stated in a letter read at the signing that the Government of Canada was pleased the Sahtu seized the opportunity to help shape the future of the NWT.

"I am very pleased to see the Sahtu taking this step today," stated Norman Yakeleya, MLA for the Sahtu, in a press release. "It's always better to negotiate your own fate than to have others do it for you."

More than three dozen people gathered to watch the signing on the opening day of the legislative assembly May 23.

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