For the first time in 11 years, the Dene National Assembly is coming to the Hay River Reserve.
The 47th version of the assembly will take place from July 17 to 21.
Chief Roy Fabian of K’atlodeeche First Nation (KFN) is pleased to see the assembly returning to the reserve.
“The KFN is really proud to host the assembly,” he said, adding he hopes many Dene will visit for the gathering. “And get a chance to talk about issues that are important to us as Dene people.”
Fabian noted that the last time the Dene National Assembly was on the Hay River Reserve was in 2006, and before that in 1988.
This year’s assembly had initially been set for the Tlicho, but it is in an election year and the Tlicho Government decided not to host the assembly to concentrate on the elections.
“We were asked if we would be interested in hosting the assembly, so we agreed,” said Fabian.
National Chief Bill Erasmus explained the assembly is rotated every year among the five regions that make up the Dene Nation.
Erasmus said the Tlicho Government has a complicated election system in which the early part of the summer involves nominations and then voting for community leaders, and later in the summer a grand chief is elected.
“After thinking it over, they thought there would be too much going on by taking on those elections and also planning for our assembly and so on,” he said. “So we’ve agreed to have the meeting in their territory next year.”
That situation created an opportunity for the Hay River Reserve to host the assembly because it is not necessarily part of the Deh Cho anymore, since it has its own negotiating process.
“They’re kind of like an independent member,” said Erasmus.
Going by the traditional rotation of the assembly among the five regions, the annual gathering would not get back to the Hay River Reserve.
“So it’s kind of a good way of making sure we’re still involved with the people on the reserve and they’re still a part of the Dene Nation,” said Erasmus, adding since it is on the road system it also provides easy accessibility. “So it works out.”
Fabian also explained that KFN is no longer part of the Deh Cho.
“We represent ourselves at the table now as an individual First Nation,” he said.
Fabian noted he has been calling on the Dene Nation to change its constitution to allow KFN to be represented on the executive committee, which now has representatives from the five regions.
The KFN chief said he hopes that will be one of the issues discussed at the national assembly.
Fabian said another issue to be raised by KFN is its desire to be directly funded by the federal government to provide services on the Hay River Reserve, instead of receiving services such as health, education and housing from the GNWT.
“For example, education is not working for Dene people,” he said. “It’s not completely true all across the board. There are some very successful communities. But in my community we have very few graduates. There are some, but in terms of our population representation, the dropout rates are pretty high. So education isn’t working for us.”
Fabian noted he recently wrote the Dene Nation on the funding issue.