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Pehdzeh Ki First Nation in Wrigley will step away from Dehcho process, says chief

Pehdzeh Ki First Nation in Wrigley, N.W.T, said it intends to walk out of the Dehcho negotiation process.

'I just felt like it was time for Wrigley to go out on our own,' says Chief Maurice Moses

A sign for Pehdzeh Ki First Nation. Chief Maurice Moses expressed the First Nation's desire to withdraw from the negotiations at a meeting on Feb. 26. (John Last/CBC)

The Pehdzeh Ki First Nation in Wrigley, N.W.T, says it intends to walk out of the Dehcho negotiation process. 

Chief Maurice Moses expressed the First Nation's desire to withdraw from the negotiations on Feb. 26, the second day of the Dehcho leadership meetings in Fort Simpson. 

Then, Pehdzeh Ki members walked out of the meeting, said Moses.

"I just felt like it was time for Wrigley to go out on our own," Moses told the CBC. 

The next day, Moses wrote about the walkout in a scathing letter titled, "Walking out — speaks for itself," addressed to Gladys Norwegian, grand chief of the Dehcho First Nations. 

Pehdzeh Ki First Nation is a member of the Dehcho First Nations, the organization negotiating a land claim and self-government on behalf of most of the First Nations and Métis in the Dehcho region.

That Dehcho process began in 1999, according to the website for the territory's Department of Executive and Indigenous Affairs. In 2019, the negotiations set aside conversations on lands and resources to instead focus solely on self-government.

Wrigley has no support from the Dehcho First Nations.- Maurice Moses,  chief of Pehdzeh Ki First Nation

In the letter, Moses accuses the Dehcho First Nations of not supporting his First Nation.

"It seems that Pehdzeh Ki is a hindrance to the Dehcho First Nations; it seems we never get support from the organization," Moses wrote. "Well, we are better than that and deserve to be recognized for whom we are."

Moses said there are a few reasons for why he believes the First Nation should walk away, including little progress on the decades-long Dehcho First Nations self-government agreement, known as the Dehcho process

Gladys Norwegian, grand chief of the Dehcho First Nations, told the CBC in an emailed statement that Pehdzeh Ki First Nation still needs to pass a resolution, supported by the majority of band council, in order to officially walk away from the negotiations. (Alex Brockman/CBC)

"I've been the chief for almost two and a half years — I haven't seen … nothing from [Dehcho First Nations]. That's why I'm withdrawing," Moses said in an interview. 

Lack of support on Mackenzie Valley Highway

This isn't the first time that Pehdzeh Ki First Nation has discussed walking away from the Dehcho process.

In 2012, then-chief Tim Lennie told the Dehcho assembly that nothing has happened with the land claim negotiation since day-one and was considering a formal withdraw. 

Acho Dene Koe First Nation in Fort Liard left to pursue its own land claim process in 2008.

Moses said many people in the First Nation have also expressed concerns about the lack of support from the Dehcho First Nations on their priorities, including the construction of a 15-kilometre all-season road from Wrigley to Mount Gaudet

The road is one part of the territory's plan to extend the MacKenzie Valley Highway from Wrigley to Norman Wells, N.W.T. 

"They see it too — Wrigley has no support from the Dehcho First Nations," Moses said.

Moses said signs have already been put up to establish the First Nation's land boundaries. 

Norwegian, grand chief of the Dehcho First Nations, said in an emailed statement that Pehdzeh Ki First Nation still needs to pass a resolution, supported by the majority of band council, in order to officially walk away from the negotiations.

She did not offer a reaction to Moses's announcement or letter from the Dehcho leadership meetings.