Dene Nation chiefs gathered in Yellowknife last week to discuss a variety of issues and opportunities concerning Denendeh and its people, including a September incident that led to a search of a Lutsel K’e governed camp.
In light of the territorial government’s unlawful search of the camp belonging to the Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation on Sept. 13 — when conversation officers make accusations of caribou meat wastage — the delegates unanimously voted to seek an apology, a full investigation into the incident and the resignations of the GNWT staff who participated in the authorization of the search.
The Dene Nation Western Boreal Caribou Project proposed the development of a traditional knowledge engagement guide in order to provide community- and regional-directed protocols for those protecting knowledge surrounding caribou. Jennifer Duncan, Trevor Teed and Joe Dragon provided information on intergovernmental policies in the hope that it would improve regional and community policies on caribou management.
Dene Nation housing coordinators Steve Norn and Joe Dragon made a presentation on the challenges of housing needs and community services. In response, those in attendance passed a resolution to address federal funding for First Nations housing, which will be “directed and administered by Dene communities and regions, not the Government of the Northwest Territories.”
Other discussions addressed post-pandemic social and economic impacts on Denendeh; food sovereignty and the cost of living; and substance abuse programs.
The First Nations Information Governance Council Dene Nation team made a presentation about the preservation, cataloguing and archiving of Dene Nation-related articles for a new information centre, a development that began early last year and is planned to be completed within the next three years.
Chief Francois Paulette — a leader famous for challenging the Crown, along with 16 other chiefs, to recognize treaty rights and aboriginal title to close to 1.17 million square kilometres of land in 1972 — attended in honour of the anniversary of the aforementioned event dubbed the “Paulette Case.”
He addressed the Dene Nation to promote their rights and interests.
“Our treaty rights supersede NWT acts, Parks acts, and any other act that you come across. The treaties are paramount,” he said at the Explorer Hotel, where delegates from Akaitcho, Dehcho, Gwich’in, Sahtu and Tlicho gathered, as well as independent Dene members from Fort Chipewyan, K’atl’odeeche and other communities were also present from Dec. 13-15.
Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Roseanne Archibald said that the AFN would continue to uphold the values of First Nations people.
“The heart of the AFN is you, the communities,” she said. “We will continue to work our values and principles, ensuring that our culture, our beliefs, and our seven sacred teachings are at the core of our work.”
Dene National Chief Gerald Antoine opened the three days of meetings by acknowledging his responsibility to uphold Dene law, values, and principles, as well as the Declaration of the United Dene — an extensive document focused on recognizing the Dene Nation’s independence. Antoine also spoke of the obligation to serve as a member of Assembly of First Nations, Indian Residential Institutions of Genocide, Knowledge Keepers, and Indigenous Veterans councils.
Next year, the Dene National Assembly will take place in July and will be hosted by the Smith Landing First Nation.