4 community governments join N.W.T. devolution deal

For the first time, individual community governments have signed on to the Northwest Territories devolution agreement. Until now, only regional aboriginal governments had signed the deal.
Salt River Chief Frieda Martselo signs on to the Northwest Territories' devolution agreement in Yellowknife May 26. Next to her are Premier Bod McLeod and Minister of Finance and Environment and Natural Resources, Michael Miltenberger. (Angela Sterritt/CBC)

Four community governments signed on to the Northwest Territories devolution agreement in a special ceremony at the legislative assembly in Yellowknife yesterday.

It’s the first time individual community governments have signed on to the deal and it means only two regional First Nations have yet to sign on.

“Of course I’m excited,” says Harry Deneron, chief of the Acho Dene Koe First Nation in Fort Liard.

Deneron says resources like big oil could pave the way for prosperity and even healing for his people.

“When you're not party to anything that’s happening on your traditional territory, it is not good,” Deneron says. “I think that you want to be party to what’s happening.”

In 2008, the Acho Dene Koe First Nation pulled out of the regional Dehcho First Nations group in order to negotiate its own land claim with the federal government, along with the Fort Liard Metis, which also signed onto the devolution agreement yesterday.

The Deninu K’ue First Nation in Fort Resolution and the Salt River First Nation in Fort Smith also signed on to devolution yesterday. That group announced its intentions to do so in late January

Both groups are part of the regional Akaitcho First Nation which is working on a land claim agreement in the southeastern N.W.T. and which has yet to sign on to devolution.

Salt River Chief Frieda Martselos says she also looks forward to progress.

“And we also believe in balanced development,” Marselos said.

Aboriginal governments who have signed the deal share 25 percent of the resource royalties collected for the territorial government.

Premier Bob Mcleod says these community groups will now get a share of that money too.

“We always knew that there were community governments that had their own land claim negotiations and on that basis we signed on and they will have access to revenue sharing.”

Bob Mcleod says he hopes The Dehcho First Nations and the Akaitcho Dene First Nations will also sign on this year.

The four community groups now join five aboriginal groups who have already signed on to devolution: the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, the N.W.T. Métis Nation, the Sahtu Secretariat Incorporated, the Gwich’in Tribal Council and the Tlicho Government.