North

Feuding first nations sign deal to talk

The leaders of two first nations in the N.W.T. have agreed to negotiate an end to a boundary dispute that's prompted fist fights and bad feelings between their people.

The leaders of two first nations in the N.W.T. have agreed to negotiate an end to a boundary dispute that's prompted fist fights and bad feelings between their people.

Dogrib and the Akaitcho leaders initialed an agreement Tuesday afternoon that sets out the rules for their negotiations.

The chief of Lutselk'e says the initialing means negotiators have recommendations they can begin talks with. Archie Catholique says the two groups have worked behind closed doors for about two weeks to reach this stage.

"That's to go ahead and explore the possibility of coming to some satisfactory [agreement], to see if we can like it and live with it," he says.

Negotiators are expected to have a deal ready for signing by next week's Dene leadership meeting.

Dogrib leaders like Joe Rabesca were optimistic after the signing.

"If we can team up two regions together, we'll be a lot stronger," he said. "We talk about it, but it seems like we're so far apart. But today, I'm very happy now, we're sitting in one room."

The dispute began when Akaitcho people in Lutselk'e said the Dogrib were claiming lands traditionally used by both groups around the east shore of Great Slave Lake. They say the Dogrib chose the land for its rich resources, not based on their traditional use.

The dispute has at times turned bitter, with young people from the rival first nations getting into street fights in Yellowknife, and leaders and elders on both sides trading barbs.



The Dogrib signed an land claim and self-government agreement with the territorial and federal governments in early September, despite protests by the Akaitcho against the deal. Negotiators have now entered a three-month 'consultation phase' with the public before the document goes for final approval.

The agreement gives the Dogrib $90 million, control over nearly 40,000 square miles of land, traditional-use rights over an even larger area, and a share of the profits from any resource extraction from their territory. The deal also includes provisions for self-government by the Dogrib on their territory.

It is the first combined land claim and self-government agreement in the N.W.T.

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