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First the land claim

Deh Cho sets new pipeline priority

Thorunn Howatt
Northern News Services

Fort Providence (Nov 12/01) - Deh Cho First Nations leaders want to settle land and self-government talks before signing on to a Mackenzie Valley natural gas pipeline.

The leadership met for three days last week in Fort Providence and talk of the proposed pipeline dominated discussion. One full day was dedicated to discussion of the Aboriginal Pipeline Group's memorandum of understanding (MOU).

"The pipeline is on everyone's mind," said Grand Chief Michael Nadli. He said the Deh Cho Process must be resolved first.

"We're not anti-development," said Nadli. He insisted the Deh Cho will "roll out the red carpet" for pipeline and development once the region is closer to its goal.

The pipeline group wants chiefs from the Deh Cho region to sign the MOU -- an agreement to form a partnership between industry and aboriginal regions to build a pipeline carrying arctic gas southward. Under the agreement, First Nations would get one-third ownership of the pipeline.

So far, just one DCFN chief has signed -- Fort Liard's Judy Kotchea. She was conspicuously absent from the meeting.

Although it was rumoured that Liidlii Kue First Nation Chief Rita Cli would announce her intention to sign the MOU, she remained non-committal.

Cli admitted her community gave her support to sign the document.

"People are saying we're going away from the Deh Cho declaration but we're not. We are still working with the declaration," she said.

Hay River Chief Pat Martel didn't push hard to sign the MOU but urged Aboriginal Pipeline Group supporter Harry Deneron to speak about oil and gas opportunities for the region.

Martel and other regional chiefs in the Kakisa area have been meeting with Paramount Resources on their own deal regarding jobs and benefits linked to Paramount's Cameron Hills area discoveries.

Members from ArctiGas were present for the leadership meeting. ArctiGas Resources Corp. pitched its own pipeline proposal that would carry Alaskan natural gas from Prudhoe Bay by an undersea pipeline to the Mackenzie Delta then travel southward to American markets. ArctiGas calls itself a 100 per cent aboriginal-owned proposal and plans to finance its project with the sale of non-recourse bonds.

ArctiGas' managing director Bruce Hall said the corporation has spent millions of dollars on its project since 1999.

During an ArctiGas presentation, the company reminded Deh Cho leaders that up to $100,000 is available to communities toward the investigation and legal fees associated with checking out the proposal.