Gwich'in Tribal Council expects mandate on self-government after special assembly Friday

A special assembly on Gwich'in self-government begins in Akalvik on Friday.

Nihtat Gwich'in and Tetlit Gwich'in expected to decide on approach to self-government Friday in Aklavik

Bobbie Jo Greenland-Morgan, Grand Chief of the Gwich’in Tribal Council, is expecting clear direction on self-government by the end of Friday's special assembly on Gwich'in self-government. (Facebook)

The Gwich'in Tribal Council will hold a special assembly on self-government in Aklavik, N.W.T., Friday. Previous assemblies were postponed twice this year because of deaths in the Beaufort Delta region.

The Gwich'in Tribal Council decided on the special assembly last year, after both the Nihtat Gwich'in and Tetlit Gwich'in expressed interest in pursuing separate self-government agreements during the 2017 Annual General Assembly.

The Nihtat Gwich'in Council represents Inuvik members while the Tetlit Gwich'in Council is based in Fort McPherson.

After the 2017 assembly, a self-government working group was created to study the matter and report back.

"I'm expecting … clear direction. I'm hoping for informed decisions," said Gwich'in Tribal Council Grand Chief Bobbie Jo Greenland-Morgan.

"At this special assembly, we will be hearing more on that … hearing from the delegates and people, and coming out of the special assembly with a clear mandate [on] moving forward."

The Gwich'in Tribal Council represents all participants in the Gwich'in Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement, signed in 1992, and includes members in the N.W.T. communities of Fort McPherson, Inuvik, Aklavik and Tsiigehtchic.

Greenland-Morgan says both the working group and the self-government team have been working hard.

Greenland-Morgan expects a final decision to be reached on Friday.

"We are here to take direction from the people and we will respect and accept what the communities want because in the long run that is what self-governing is," she said.

Inspired by community self-government

Jozef Carnogursky, president of Nihtat Gwich'in Council, says they are looking at a community based self-government similar to what's been accomplished by the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation near Old Crow, Yukon, and the Deline Got'ine Government in the Northwest Territories.

Jozef Carnogursky, president of Nihtat Gwich'in Council, says the Nihtat are inspired by other models of community self-government. (Submitted by Jozef Carnogursky)

"It was something that was agreed to when the land claim was signed … their are provisions in there that allow for this."

He said the Nihtat Gwich'in are happy to take part in the special assembly because "we think it's important for others to understand our views."

He said that self-government for the Nihtat would give it the power to make its own decisions at the community level.

"We don't see our decision on self-government dividing the Gwich'in nation in any way," Carnogursky said. "It's just more [about] bringing that power back to the community level."

The special assembly on self-governance will be followed by Gwich'in Tribal Council's annual general assembly on Saturday and Sunday.