The chief of Dettah says he wants to see an agreement-in-principle on land, resources and self-government reached between the GNWT, federal government and Akaitcho Dene First Nations by 2018.

Dettah Chief Edward Sangris

“Right now, we’re working out what they have to offer on the table,” said Chief Edward Sangris. “I think we’ve got the base to move forward, but there has to be a lot of reaching of common ground to achieve that.”

The territorial government is working on resolving three outstanding land claims with the Dehcho First Nations, Akaitcho Dene First Nation and Northwest Territories Metis Nation.

In May, the GNWT tabled new offers to the Akaitcho Dene and NWT Metis.

The move came after two reports from ministerial representatives were released in April showing Indigenous groups were concerned with the slow pace of negotiations, some of which began in the 1990s.

“Since then, we also have work plans with the Akaitcho Dene and the Metis to reach an Akaitcho Dene agreement-in-principle and a Metis final agreement within 18 months,” said Premier Bob McLeod.

NWT Premier Bob McLeod

He expressed optimism that “substantial progress” can be made on the land claims before the end of the government’s term in 2019.

However, Sangris said the parties want “two different things.”

“We said we want so much land quantum and royalty and cash … they turn around and give us what they offered,” he said.

McLeod said he was unable to expand on Sangris’ comments because of the confidential nature of the negotiations.

However, he said he believes the offer presented to the Akaitcho and Metis “provides a lot of flexibility to identify a package that best meets their interest – whether that’s maximizing land quantum, maximizing the cash component or maximizing their share of resource revenues.”

On the Dehcho First Nations process, McLeod said a letter was sent to the grand chief about a month and a half ago.

It was to inform the chief McLeod and federal minister Carolyn Bennett are committed to providing the Dehcho First Nation a revised offer within 45 days, subject to acknowledgement from the grand chief, said McLeod.

Dehcho Grand Chief Herb Norwegian did not respond to an interview request by press time.

If outstanding land claims can be settled, Sangris said it will provide greater certainty for industry in the territory.

“The economy of the North is dependent on the resources that come from our traditional territory,” he said, explaining the current uncertainty can cause delays for mining companies and in environmental processes.

“We have to achieve the agreement-in-principle by 2018 and have certainty for our people and for future generations,” said Sangris of the Akaitcho claim. “Those are the things that we need to keep in mind when we’re doing the negotiations.”

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