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Metis applicants must re-submit to be beneficiaries

Metis with ancestral ties to the South Slave must apply or in some cases - re-apply - to become beneficiaries in an ongoing negotiations process.

Jason Lepine is the manager of the Registries Division with the Northwest Territory Metis Nation. photo courtesy of Northwest Territory Metis Nation

Fort Smith's Jason Lepine, manager of the registries division with the Metis Nation, said all potential beneficiaries have to go through the process, even those who filled out applications in the late 1990s and again in 2010.

"The difference between this and the other two applications is this is a really defined process now," he said. "It's all evidence-based. It's based on the genealogist. And this time out you're going to get yourself a card."

A mobile application intake session will be held in Hay River from Feb. 2 to Feb. 4 by the Northwest Territory Metis Nation, which has been in negotiations for years with the federal and territorial governments.

"It's part of the registration process," he said. "The main table parties at our negotiations table required that we complete a new application form to identify eligible people to participate in the Metis land claim, and so arising out of that was the need to have some staff begin looking at a new process and start reactivating some of the old applications we have and having them updated."

Once people fill out the new applications, the information goes to genealogist who conducts a search for a "birthright ancestor" who was living in the South Slave on or before Dec. 31, 1921.

"That's the evidence chain," said Lepine, explaining the Metis beneficiaries will be of Cree, Chipewyan or Slavey descent.

The genealogist will report back to the Metis Nation's database and, if an application is confirmed, a person will receive an identification card.

Anyone applying will be required to sign release forms so the genealogist can gather historical and vital statistics documents on the individual and his or her ancestors.

Lepine suggested that people apply even if they have just "an inkling" they may be eligible.

"Some folks just aren't entirely sure about their ancestry," he noted. "We're talking almost 100 years ago."

Lepine estimated there are between 400 to 500 eligible people in Hay River.

"That's what we're aiming for," he said. "If we get more, fantastic."

Garry Bailey, the president of the Northwest Territory Metis Nation, said registration will be an ongoing process.

"It's going to be right up until we've done our claim, and after we've done our claim we're still going to have that enumeration co-ordinator available so that they could accept new claims," he said.

Bailey estimated there are about 3,000 eligible people in all.

Mobile application intake sessions have already been held in Edmonton in December and Yellowknife in January.

The intake in Hay River will be held at the Hay River Metis Government Council building from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Feb. 2 and Feb. 3, and from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 4.

The new membership cards were launched at November's annual general assembly in Hay River of the Metis Nation.

At the assembly, the first 10 cards were given out to board members.

A person with such a card would be eligible to benefit from a land claim agreement and be able to vote on the final agreement.

Negotiations are still underway for that agreement. An agreement-in-principle on land and resources was signed in 2015. A final agreement would also deal with self-government.

Negotiations for a final agreement are expected to take upwards of two years.