Drawing a line between bands
Treaty 8 chiefs call for a boundary

Terry Halifax
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (May 01/00) - There needs to be a defined line between Dogrib and Treaty 8 lands say Akaitcho chiefs.

In a meeting last week in Yellowknife, Treaty 8 chiefs met with Dogrib Treaty 11 chiefs to discuss the boundary issue.

While the Dogribs have an agreement-in-principle, which includes a provision for a single block of 39,000 square kilometres of land, the boundary with Deh Cho First Nations and Yellowknives Dene First Nation must be addressed before a final agreement is signed.

Yellowknives Dene Chief Peter Liske said the boundary is necessary because they feel Canada and the Dogribs selected the settlement area by "negotiating in bad faith."

"We were not consulted in their AIP," Liske said. "They included the Yellowknives Dene First Nation within their settlement area without our consent. They went ahead and did this without consulting us, so we need a boundary," he said, adding, "I don't want no overlap, I want a boundary."

Once the boundary is decided on, Liske says they can then deal with how the overlap will be dealt with.

"His jurisdiction will be here, mine will be over here, and then we'll talk about the overlap issue," he said.

"Our people can go back and forth, but as long we know the boundary is there, we know where the jurisdiction falls -- the overlap will come later."

Liske argued that he was born in the area the Dogribs have selected and they, Yellowknives Dene, are just trying to protect their property.

The land selection was performed once already, Liske said, during the Dene/Metis comprehensive land claim.

"In 1989, they all agreed to a certain area. The Dogrib people would choose a certain area of land, the Yellowknives people would choose the Bigfoot area -- there would be a boundary there."

"When everybody broke apart in 1991, they all went their separate ways and then everybody started grabbing, because they found out that there was a whole bunch of diamonds around Lac de Gras," added Liske.

Dogrib Grand Chief Joe Rabesca said he sees no need for a line between the two nations.

"They're asking for a boundary and we're saying, 'No, let's keep it open as it is and you can travel anywhere you want," he said. "There was never a boundary before, so why do they need one now?"

He said the Akaitcho chiefs have asked to include lands that were never used by the Akaitcho people and says the land Akaitcho chiefs are calling for include lands along the treeline still occupied by him and his people.

"I have a house over there where I used to trap and I still go out to my place there," he said.

"They've never been in that area, so why put a boundary where you've never been?"

"They took my house on that side; they took a lot of traplines from Rae Band people, and that's not right," Rabesca said. "The Rae Band were the only users -- not Yellowknife."

The Akaitcho chiefs gave the Dogribs a mid-May deadline and the debate was not open to much discussion, Rabesca said.

"They gave us two options: one is a boundary and one is a deadline or else," Rabesca said. "We did talk about it and managed to get an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) together."

While he sees no need for this boundary, Rabesca has moved to establish a boundary with the Deh Cho First Nation (DCFN), which dissects the Horn Plateau.

He said the boundary was agreed on by both sides.

"The only thing that they were concerned about was all the rivers that flow from the Horn Plateau all go through Wrigley, Simpson and Providence," Rabesca said.

"They're worried that if we ever pollute the water it's going to affect them."

Rabesca said the Dogribs have established a water board and will give the DCFN a seat on the board to stay informed on any issues of shared water.

"The boundary down there, I can understand, but not the one between here and Yellowknife," he said.

"We'll manage to work it out somehow."