'This is our land': K'atl'odeeche First Nation continues opposition to claims on traditional land

K'atl'odeeche First Nation says visitors are welcome, but only members may lay claim to traditional territory.

'We are not trying to fight with them. We are trying to work with them,' responds NWT Métis Nation president

Chief April Martel with K'atl'odeeche First Nation band councillors Peter Sabourin, left, and Doug Lamalice, right, at Friday’s news conference. (Kirsten Murphy/CBC)

Members of the K'atl'odeeche First Nation near Hay River, N.W.T., continue to oppose any outside claims to their traditional lands.

The chief and council met with the media Friday afternoon.

Band councillors Pat Martel, Henry Tambour, Peter Sabourin, Robert Lamalice took turns telling stories about their fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers who hunted, fished and trapped in the area for generations.

"We did not cede, release and surrender under Treaty 8. This is our land," said former chief Roy Fabian, who is now an advisor on council.

Band Coun. Pat Martel pointing to a map of the K’atl’odeeche First Nation traditional territory. (Kirsten Murphy/CBC)

The news conference comes at a time of growing tensions between the First Nation and the Northwest Territory Métis Nation (NWTMN).

K'atl'odeeche First Nation believes the Métis group is close to settling a more than 20-year-old land claim.

The First Nation's band office provided several maps in a media package — one shows the Métis Nation claim to be about 63 per cent of K'atl'odeeche primary traditional territory. The map says its source is the proposed agreement draft from July 2018.

"[The First Nation] takes no issues with all of the other aspects of the Métis claim. It's simply the application of [their] claim within the K'atl'odeeche First Nation traditional territory," says Peter Redvers, K'atl'odeeche director of lands, resources and negotiations.

The proposed Northwest Territory Métis Nation agreement area encompasses 63 per cent of the overall K'atl'odeeche First Nation primary traditional territory, says the First Nation in their media package. (K'atl'odeeche First Nation media package)

Adding to an already tense situation, the Métis ​Nation installed a mini billboard on K'atl'odeeche land two weeks ago, welcoming people to Métis territory.

The Métis see it as shared land. The First Nation disagrees.

"They can use it with permission to an extent. And it's nice that they would ask if they can use the traditional territory … but they have no traditional claim," said K'atl'odeeche Chief April Martel.

New sign, old concerns

Between 2012 and 2013, the K'atl'odeeche First Nation was present during an agreement in principle discussion about the proposed Métis ​boundary under Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution, said Redvers.

Section 35 recognizes Indigenous and treaty rights.

At the time, Redvers said the First Nation requested the boundaries be redrawn, so that its land was not included.

Redvers said the band is "surprised [that] there has been no action in addressing the issue."

K’atl’odeeche chief and council met with the media on Friday. (Kirsten Murphy/CBC)

Two weeks ago, the First Nation asked the the federal and territorial governments if they plan to proceed with the Métis claim despite its long-standing opposition. The First Nation said it expects an answer in January 2019.

"Depending on that response, [K'atl'odeeche First Nation] will have to weigh its options," Redvers said.

NWT Métis Nation responds

"Any Métis that is Indigenous to the Northwest Territories has the right to harvest and use the land the way they have always and no First Nation can take that right away," said NWT Métis Nation president Garry Bailey.

"We are not trying to fight with them. We are trying to work with them."

The two sides have yet to meet face-to-face. Bailey said they will "absolutely" meet with the First Nation "when the time is right."

Bailey said their claim is at the final agreement stage but could not say when it might be finalized.

The NWT Métis Nation represents Métis in the N.W.T.'s South Slave region.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Henry Tambour as Peter Tambour.
    Dec 05, 2018 6:08 PM CT