K’atlodeeche First Nation has stated its opposition to a Metis agreement-in-principle being applied on the band’s traditional territory.
In a Sept. 10 news release, the First Nation expressed its feelings about the agreement-in-principle on lands and resources signed July 31 by the Northwest Territory Metis Nation, the federal government and the GNWT.
The First Nation stated it “fundamentally opposes” the application of the agreement, and any final agreement arising from it, within its primary traditional territory.
The statement from Chief Roy Fabian and band council also said the First Nation does not recognize the legitimacy of the Hay River Metis Government Council as a rights-bearing aboriginal organization. The band argues that, since the Metis council was established in 1997, it does not have a traditional history of land use and occupancy, and primarily represents the interests of Chipewyan and Cree Metis who moved to the Hay River area from the Fort Resolution and Fort Smith areas beginning in the 1970s.
K’atlodeeche First Nation called upon the federal and territorial governments to provide the Metis nation’s historic land use and occupancy data and information that would substantiate an assertion of aboriginal rights on the band’s traditional territory and release the membership list of the Metis council.
The band stated that, if such information is not provided or is inadequate to assert land claims within the First Nation’s territory, the western edge of the Metis agreement-in-principle should be east of Big Buffalo River about 60 kilometres east of Hay River.
“Under the current circumstances, the K’atlodeeche First Nation will challenge, using all means at its disposal, the application of the (NWT Metis Nation agreement-in-principle) or any final agreement derived from it, within the (First Nation’s) traditional territory,” the release concluded.
Attempts to reach Chief Fabian for further comment were unsuccessful.
Garry Bailey, president of the Northwest Territory Metis Nation, said his organization is committed to consulting with other aboriginal groups on overlap issues.
“Hopefully, we can ratify our overlapping issues. We all have overlapping issues. They have their personal views,” he said of the First Nation’s release. “I know the Northwest Territory Metis Nation has used the whole Northwest Territories, not only Hay River. We’ve used the land north of the lake. We’ve been here for hundreds of years, and we’re not going anywhere. So we’ll defend our position, our process.”
Bailey also said the fight for Aboriginal Peoples should be with the federal government.
“Our fight is with Canada. It’s not with each other,” he said. “We’ve always shared the land. We’re not trying to steal it or take it away from anybody.”
The Metis president also said it is disappointing that the legitimacy of the Metis claim is being questioned, adding that Metis rights are protected in the Canadian constitution.
“It’s law,” he said. “They’ve just got to get used to the law and move forward, and fight the right people.”
Under a final agreement, the NWT Metis Nation would receive $69.4 million and 25,194 square-kilometres of land.