As the Inuvik Native Band stakes a larger presence in the community following its election earlier this year, and a newly finished building between Northmart and the Children First Centre, the organization also looks to a future involved in self-government talks with the Nihtat Gwich’in Council.

Well over 100 people came through the Inuvik Native Band’s doors to tour the group’s new building Friday, Sept. 22. From left to right are Sheila O’Kane, Miki O’Kane, Fred Carmichael, Randy Firth and Jozef Carnogursky in conversation with Lesa Semmler.
Stewart Burnett/NNSL photo

“I consider ourselves as partners,” said Jozef Carnogursky, president of the NGC. “Although we are two separate and distinct organizations, I think probably 99 per cent of the members are the same. Moving forward in self-government, the plan is to combine the two and in the end we’ll have one government.”

Inuvik Native Band Chief Lawrence Neyando confirmed that plan.

The two groups serve a similar purpose, with Nihtat representing Gwich’in in Inuvik and the Inuvik Native Band representing native status holders in town.

The NGC has already expressed its desire to pursue its own self-government agreement for Inuvik, separate from the Gwich’in Tribal Council. At the GTC’s 2017 annual general assembly, a direction was put forth to gather the communities to talk about plans for self-government, but that meeting has not yet taken place. Carnogursky confirmed that his direction comes from his membership, which has expressed the desire for Inuvik’s own self-government agreement.

“Any negotiations on the self-government agreement in Inuvik will be a jointly negotiated agreement between Nihtat Gwich’in Council and the Inuvik Native Band,” said Carnogursky. “We won’t go without the other. That’s what we’ve agreed to and if one’s not ready then we wait. We’re doing it together and that’s just the way it’s going to go.”

That future might still be some time away, depending on how slowly these negotiations proceed. For now, Neyando is excited about the band’s new life in its new building, which the Inuvik Interagency Committee sold to the band for $1.

“Monday’s game on,” he said at the open house Friday, Sept. 22.

“We’re open for business to work with other organizations and members of our community, not only for our members but for the community and to work with everybody.”

Beyond a receptionist, band manager and finance officer, the band is looking to hire a program officer. Neyando is still taking feedback for what kind of programs his membership might want. Ideally, he’d like to serve both youth and elders at the same time, while not stepping on the toes of any other organizations in town.

After a summer full of work to get the building ready, he’s excited about the future of the Inuvik Native Band.

“I’m getting awesome feedback from the community,” said Neyando, plus donations from individuals and businesses.

“We’re not slowing down. We’re just going to keep going forward.”

He thanked community members for their support.

“There are a number of people that have been giving me advice and I take it all to heart,” added Neyando. “I’m very grateful for everything that’s happened so far.”

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