N.W.T.'s Aboriginal Summit could fold
The Aboriginal Summit, which has represented the Northwest Territories' First Nations and Métis groups on devolution and resource revenue sharing talks, is losing so many of its member groups that it may disband.
Executive director Gary Black said he is disappointed in the prospect of disbanding, but aboriginal groups say they would now rather negotiate such deals themselves.
Black said he will ask the N.W.T. registrar to dissolve the organization after he speaks with the remaining members. But he said he doubts any of the organizations can strike better deals on their own.
"I think, as in almost any case, a unified voice carries more leverage and authority with it than a number of disparate ones," he said.
The Aboriginal Summit had been comprised of aboriginal government leaders from the Déline First Nation, the Gwich'in Tribal Council, Inuvialuit Regional Corp., North Slave Métis Alliance, Northwest Territory Métis Nation, Sahtu Dene Council/Sahtu Secretariat Inc. and Tlicho First Nation. The Decho First Nations and Akaitcho Territory Government had observer status in the organization.
The summit had been working with the territorial and federal governments for years on talks.
It and the territorial government said last year that they would not sign an agreement with Ottawa on devolution without a fair resource revenue-sharing agreement. The summit was also asking governments for 50 per cent of all resource royalties generated in the territory.
But some complained that the diverse views among aboriginal organizations slowed down the negotiations, and some decided to start negotiations on their own.
Last week, the Sahtu Dene Council withdrew its membership from the summit. The Gwich'in council and the Inuvialuit Regional Corp. withdrew in December, now leaving the summit without enough members to meet a quorum.
'We don't really need this summit'
Behchoko Chief Leon Lafferty, who is part of the Tlicho First Nation, said the summit did serve a purpose, but it has outlived its usefulness.
"It made people aware of the issues that are out there. It's done that. Now I think we've gone [to] the next step and we have to start doing things as leaders," he said.
"What we're thinking is that we don't really need this summit.I think they did their thing, and I think it's outdated. And we're going to be probably doing things differently, I guess."
Lafferty has not formally withdrawn from the summit, but he said he probably would not send any representatives to its meetings.
Now that the Tlicho people have a land claim and a self-government agreement, they can negotiate with the territorial and federal governments on their own, he said.