A resolution calling for a special assembly on self-government was passed at last week’s Gwich’in Tribal Council (GTC) annual general assembly in Fort McPherson.

According to GTC vice-president Jordan Peterson, the resolution requires a working group be established to set up the gathering.

“(It’s) to ensure that we are all working together and it consists of leadership within the communities,” Peterson said. “To ensure that we are really trying to understand the interests of the Gwich’in communities – whether that’s going off on their own or continuing as a region.”

The working group would include presidents of the designated Gwich’in organizations, chiefs, and himself, he explained.

“It’s giving direction to allow for us to sit across from the table from each other and to work together, and to ensure that we’re progressing the self-government file and really respecting all the parties and the individual communities’ direction,” Peterson said.

On June 16, the GTC issued a news release stating the Nihtat Gwich’in Council, which represents Gwich’in in Inuvik, had written a letter to the GTC’s board of directors expressing interest in pursuing its own self-government process.

The GTC responded by stating decisions made by any of the four designated Gwich’in organizations must be made through the assembly under the terms of the 1992 Gwich’in Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement.

Designated Gwich’in organizations include those in Inuvik, Aklavik, Fort McPherson and Tsiigehtchic. They are sub-organizations of the GTC that help deliver programs and services in the Gwich’in communities, according to the GTC.

At the time of the news release, Nihtat Gwich’in Council president Jozef Carnogursky said the group saw self-government “differently,” but stressed the group would always remain part of the GTC.

Last April, the GTC’s board of directors approved a Gwich’in self-government agreement-in-principle.

The goal is to achieve a final agreement by 2020 and have it take effect by 2023.

Self-government would give the GTC governance over its own affairs, including things like education, social housing and custom adoption, according to a recent consultation report the council produced.

It is negotiated between the GTC, GNWT and federal government.

The Inuvik Drum reached out to designated Gwich’in organizations, but they were either unavailable or declined to comment.

Five delegates each from Tsiigehtchic, Aklavik, Fort McPherson and Inuvik took part in the assembly from Aug. 22 to 24, as well as the GTC board of directors and 20 to 40 delegates, according to Peterson.