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Dehcho First Nations and N.W.T. resume land claim, self-government talks

Dehcho Grand Chief Herb Norwegian says land claim negotiations with the N.W.T. government went from a 'political bloodbath' to a feeling of optimism on Tuesday.

Negotiations resumed Tuesday after negotiations had broken down for months

There was a warming of relations between Dehcho First Nations and the N.W.T. government Tuesday as the two groups went back to the table for land claim and self-government negotiations.

Talks between the two had broken down for months.

The last-ditch attempt to re-start negotiations did not begin well, according to Dehcho Grand Chief Herb Norwegian.

"It was almost like a political bloodbath in the boardroom there," he said.

Dehcho Grand Chief Herb Norwegian: 'If we can actually get an agreement between now and late June, early July sometime, we would be complete in the really hard labour kind of negotiations on the Dehcho AIP.' (CBC)

Norwegian said the tone changed completely after the lunch break. He would not say how the impasse on land is going to be resolved, but seemed optimistic that it could be.

"If we can actually get an agreement between now and late June, early July sometime, we would be complete in the really hard labour kind of negotiations on the Dehcho [agreement in principle]."

The Dehcho First Nations, whose traditional territory is centred in the southwest of the N.W.T., are asking for control of about 50,000 square kilometres of land in their land claim negotiations, including both surface and subsurface rights. The territorial government took over negotiations with the Dehcho from the federal government after devolution.

The talks came to a standstill months ago, after the territorial government suggested in a January letter that the sides should agree negotiations have failed if the N.W.T.'s final offer on land is not accepted.

In a letter to the premier earlier this month, Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus said that approach has no place in negotiations with First Nations.

"That's not the way they're supposed to conduct negotiations according to the parameters the Supreme Court has set out when you're talking treaties with First Nations entities in this country."

Norwegian says he expects substantive negotiations to resume next month.

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