The West Point First Nation was one of several Dene governments across the North that has marked the 100th anniversary of Treaty 11.
West Point FN is headquartered in Hay River. Chief Kenneth Cayen, who was elected Grand Chief of the Dehcho First Nations June 24, said that remembering the treaty signed between the Crown and Indigenous people of the NWT in 1921 is important because it recognizes the ties to the land by the northern Indigenous signatories.
The final numbered treaty in Canada was important for the North because it represented an agreement between the Crown and representatives of the Dehcho, Tłı̨chǫ, Sahtu and Gwich’in peoples who expressed their inherent right and title to their traditional lands. The agreement covers 950,000 square kilometres of present-day Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
“Treaty 11 is a vital document for Dene self-determination and declaration of sovereignty,” Cayen said. “The treaty includes a recognition of allodial title, which was not given to the Dene by a separate government but rather inherent in the nations and communities. The Treaty is also evidence of an agreement made between two sovereign parties; the Dene peoples and the Crown.”
Cayen said that the celebrations of Treaty 11 are also important because they shed light on bringing people together through Dene culture. He said he is aiming to make it to all Treaty 11 celebrations in the Dehcho over the coming month.
The South Slave First Nation spent much of July 7 marked by speeches from leaders and dignitaries that included Elder Karen Felker, GNWT Education and Justice Minister and Hay River North MLA RJ Simpson, Hay River Mayor Kandis Jameson, and Dene National Chief Norman Yakeleya. On July 8 and 9, several activities were held in celebration in the community that included bow and arrow making, smoke fish making, drumming and dancing, Elders’ stories and canoe races.
Cayen also said that he is also in the transition phase of formally becoming grand chief and replacing Gladys Norwegian.
“I am very grateful and excited to be carrying the role of grand chief on in the next four years,” he said. “I am motivated to see out a goal of fostering unity within the Dehcho.”
More information about the historic agreement and its relevance to the North can be found on its website.