From Gerald Antoine,
National Chief of the Dene Nation
In the course of our struggle for recognition of Dene governance, there have been many issues and the most recent issues at the heart of this situation are of deep concern.
The situation in Fort Good Hope regarding the municipal council using bylaws to remove the chief was brought to my attention in July 2022 by both Tommy Kakfwi and later by Lucy Jackson.
I have held on to the hope and belief that the leaders involved, including the family leadership of Fort Good Hope, would resolve these issues together in the most respectful way. However, this has unfortunately not happened yet. I am hopeful, and I believe this must be addressed and must be resolved by the community of Dene family leadership.
The Indian Brotherhood of the Northwest Territories was created in the early 1970s to assert the rights and authority of the Dene people through the chiefs. The Indian Brotherhood of the Northwest Territories eventually evolved into the Dene Nation. The chiefs have always asserted the authority and the rights of the Dene to govern themselves as such, as we had demonstrated with the spirit and intent of treaties #8 and #11, which the Crown is obligated to fulfill.
The Crown created Canada and, in turn, Parliament created the Northwest Territories through the legislation of the NWT Act. Whereas the power and authority of the Dene as a people is inherent and came to us from the Creator.
The chiefs and council of Fort Good Hope in this particular case remain the governing structure of their community. At the heart of this issue is our right to govern ourselves as the Original Nation of Families.
It is important to note that K’ahsho Got’ine municipal council was created by NWT legislation at the request of the Fort Good Hope chief and council so that the chief and council could manage and administer municipal services. The use of municipal bylaws to remove a chief is of great concern to all Dene family leadership and to the Dene Nation, as we have struggled to find a place in the world community where we can exercise our right to self-determination as a distinct people and as a Nation of Families. This was never intended to be meddled with by a municipal process form of administration.
I encourage and applaud Tommy Kakfwi for offering to meet with the councillors and leaders to try to resolve this unfortunate situation. This is the true Dene way.
Family, like branches on a tree, we all grow in different directions, but our roots remain the same. Let us find comfort to help each other strengthen our path forward through our shared values, nourish and strengthen our roots and work together in the spirit of our people.