Claim means business
$90 million cash part of draft AIP

Doug Ashbury
Northern News Services

NNSL (July 19/99) - With a Dogrib land claim final agreement possibly just two years away, there is a big business opportunity, negotiators said.

"We will be receiving $90 million over a number of years. In the four Dogrib communities, we don't have any financial institutions. The money has to go somewhere and somebody has to monitor it," John B. Zoe said.

The land claim also opens up doors to training and infrastructure, he said.

Zoe was among four land claim negotiators to speak last Tuesday at an NWT Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Yellowknife.

The draft agreement in principle, announced June 16, provides the 3,000 Dogrib with 39,000 kilometres of land in one single block around Behcho Ko (Rae-Edzo), Wha Ti (Lac La Marte), Gameti (Rae Lakes) and Wekweti (Snare Lake).

The draft AIP includes ownership of subsurface resources.

As well as the $90 million cash and subsurface rights, each year the Dogrib will get a share of resource royalties received by the federal government from the Mackenzie Valley.

"There will be money that the Dogrib did not have before and there will be resource management. In the end, the federal government will be less present," Jean-Yves Assintwi, chief federal negotiator, said.

"The Dogrib would control resources above and below the land," he said. Under the draft AIP, access to Dogrib lands remains public.

As for resource development, the land claim will clearly define what the rules are for companies wanting to develop resources on Dogrib lands, Assintwi said.

"You will know what the environmental hoops are. Clear rules, I hope, will allow for manageable development within the region," he said.

"We're expecting a lot of relationships between Northern business and the Dogrib First Nation."

Existing resource agreements will continue to hold within the settlement area. But companies will have the option to come under the rules of the land claim agreement.

This draft AIP is unique because it combines a land claim with self-government. It could serve as a template for future agreements between Northern aboriginal groups and the federal government. Under the agreement, community governments would be public and for all residents in each community. All residents can vote and hold public office under the draft AIP. As well, there will be a Dogrib First Nation government operating at the tribal level.

Once a land claim is effective, a Dogrib First Nation government would replace Dogrib Treaty 11 Council, as well as Dogrib Rae, Wha Ti First Nation, Gameti First Nation and Dechi Laoti First Nation bands.

"Questions of governance are key to overall development of the NWT," James Lawrence, the GNWT's chief negotiator with Aboriginal Affairs, said.

The draft AIP is expected to be made public next month at the Dogrib First Nation annual general assembly in Gameti.

The biggest challenge facing the Dogrib now is establishing the land claim boundaries. There is no settlement area defined in the draft AIP.

As part of the AIP process, the Dogrib must now meet with Yellowknives Dene and the Deh Cho First Nation over common issues and boundaries.