Gwich'in Tribal Council's push to sign agreement-in-principle called 'political posturing'
Former negotiator says it's a leadership election year and council wants to show work has been done
Announcements the Gwich'in Nation would be signing a self-government agreement-in-principle last week are being called "political posturing" by a former self-government negotiator.
The Gwich'in Tribal Council didn't sign the agreement-in-principle last week, despite an announcement April 11 that it would be presented to the board of directors for approval.
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The Nihtat Gwich'in Council of Inuvik said in an email this week it was too early to ink a deal when it "did not have copies of the final draft to review" before last week's vote.
The organization declined to do an interview, but did say it now has a draft of the agreement-in-principle (AIP), days after the council's board was supposed to vote on it. Over the next couple of weeks, it said, it will be reviewing the AIP and will be including its members in the process.
Charlie Furlong, mayor of Aklavik and a former self-government negotiator, agrees the Gwich'in Tribal Council is rushing the process in a year where the council leadership is going into an election.
"It's more political posturing by the Gwich'in Tribal Council to demonstrate some positive work has been done," he said.
Furlong said that at the community level, people are confused about what powers will come with a self-government agreement, especially for status Indians.
"People are told that 'the treaty is going to be protected.' But how it is going to be protected is something that is sacred to the people," Furlong said.
'Got a little bit sidelined'
Norman Snowshoe, vice-president of the Gwich'in Tribal Council, said the directors from Inuvik and Fort McPherson weren't present at the April 12 meeting that would have reviewed and approved the agreement-in-principle.
Snowshoe said a clean copy of the AIP wasn't available in time for the presentation before the board of directors meeting, because staff were still working on the document's legal language. Even though the final document wasn't ready, Snowshoe said the board has been updated regularly about changes.
"It's unfortunate that the review and approval process got a little bit sidelined. But at the end of the day I think the content of the agreement-in-principle is pretty sound," Snowshoe said.
He said at the last self-government negotiation meeting — held on March 29 and 30 — negotiators from communities settled on a final agreement-in-principle with some minor edits, however Inuvik representatives weren't present at that meeting.
"So they didn't know that we had to move forward with the agreement-in-principle," Snowshoe said.