The grand chief of the Tlicho nation is challenging land acknowledgements at the City of Yellowknife and beyond, saying it’s time the region is recognized as the traditional territory of his people.
On the home page of its website on Aug. 25, the City of Yellowknife acknowledges it is located in Chief Drygeese Territory.
“From time immemorial, it has been the traditional land of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, and more recently, the homeland of the North Slave Métis Alliance,” the statement reads.
In a letter to Yellowknife Mayor Rebecca Alty dated Aug. 22, a copy of which was obtained by NNSL Media, Grand Chief Jackson Lafferty said the city ought to acknowledge Yellowknife and its surrounding area as also being the traditional territory of the Tlicho people.
“I write on behalf of the Tlicho Government to raise our concern that land acknowledgements from various organizations and entities in Yellowknife all too often fail to acknowledge that Yellowknife is part of Mowhi Gogha De Niitaee — the traditional territory of the Tlicho,” Lafferty wrote. “I seek your support in rectifying this error and ensuring that land acknowledgements properly recognize and respect Yellowknife as part of the traditional territory of the Tlicho along with other Indigenous nations who also call this area home.”
Lafferty, a former MLA, told NNSL Media he sent copies of the same letter to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, the Yellowknives Dene First Nation (YKDFN) and “federal counterparts.”
“It’s very important that people across the Northwest Territories and outside the Northwest Territories recognize and acknowledge the Mowhi Gogha De Niitaee territory,” he said. “So we need to start addressing that.”
He said the lack of acknowledgement of Tlicho land claims may simply be due to a “lack of awareness” on the part of current or past administrations.
The Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Agreement, which was ratified in 2003, defines the traditional territory of the Tlicho people by a boundary referred to as Mowhi Gogha De Niitaee (“The Line that Monfwi Drew”), in reference to Chief Monfwi, who signed Treaty 11 with the federal government in 1921. This territory stretches beyond both the east and west extremities of Great Slave Lake, including Yellowknife and its surrounding area.
Lafferty acknowledges this claim overlaps with the traditional territory of the Akaitcho.
Yellowknife city councillor Steve Payne said he is “sure (the letter) is being taken into consideration. I have the utmost respect for Grand Chief Lafferty and all of the Tlicho people who are such a big part of our community in Yellowknife.”
A spokesperson for the City of Yellowknife acknowledged a request for comment, but said Alty was unavailable for comment in time for publication. A spokesperson for the Legislative Assembly wrote that “Unfortunately this isn’t enough time to provide a thoughtful response on such a big issue so we’ll refrain from commenting at this time.”
The YKDFN did not respond to a request for comment.