Twenty years after the government of Canada agreed the people of the Sahtu region in the Northwest Territories should be able to form their own governments, one of the five communities is nearly there.
In Deline, a community about 500 kilometres northwest of N.W.T.’s capital city of Yellowknife, self-government negotiations are complete. Once the deal is ratified, the community will be the first in the Sahtu to gain more control over its daily affairs.
Chief Leonard Kenny said the community has worked hard over the 17 years Deline has been negotiating.
“The elders, a lot of them are no longer around with us, but some of them were there from the beginning,” Kenny said.
Other communities in the region, however, may still be a long ways from an agreement depending on the community and the complexity of its negotiations.
Negotiations with Norman Wells and Tulita are in draft form while Fort Good Hope and Colville Lake have reached framework agreements with no set timeline for wrapping them up.
Nearly half of the self-government negotiations in Canada take between 16 and 20 years.
Chief Kenny in Deline said it’s worth it.
“We can decide for ourselves. For too long we depended on government to make decisions for us,” he said.
Once the communities gain self-government their First Nation band councils and chiefs will make daily administrative decisions about everything from education and child care to new roads and buildings.
This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.