Sahtu leaders are recognizing the 20th anniversary of their land claim agreement at a meeting in Tulita, N.W.T. this week.

In 1993, the federal and territorial governments signed off on the landmark the Sahtu Dene Métis Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement.

"The Sahtu is organised much differently than other regions," says George Cleary, who was president and chief negotiator of the Sahtu tribal council at the time. "Other regions have one political body that deals with the land claims. My hope would be that each of the districts and land corporations would be up front with each other and implement the claim the way we [saw] it."

The agreement codified that the Sahtu Dene and Métis were responsible for more than 40,000 square kilometres of land in the Mackenzie River valley. The area is rich in natural resources and there are constant proposals to develop various sites there.

Norman Yakeleya, the current local MLA, says the agreement was also important because it was the first in Canada where Metis were seen as equal to the Dene.

He said reaching the agreement was no easy task. "Nothing was given to us on a silver platter," he said. "We fought tooth, inch and nail in the agreement for every word."

"It's like hiking on the [Canol Heritage Trail] — easy looking from the air but tough to hike. This agreement had a lot of blood and sweat in tears for the negotiators," he said.

The community of Deline concluded self-government negotiations earlier this year. Other Sahtu communities are working towards their own agreements with the federal government.

The Sahtu secretariat's annual meeting gets underway on Tuesday.