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Dogrib want to keep talking

Plan presented for elder-to-elder talks

Jorge Barrera
Northern News Services

Rae/Edzo (Jan 11/02) - The Deh Cho First Nations' threat to settle a boundary dispute through a federal mediator doesn't sit well with the Dogrib Nation.

"It takes more than one party to agree on a mediator," said John B. Zoe, Dogrib chief negotiator. "Our preference has always been to work out things between ourselves. That's what self-government is all about.

"It's unfortunate we have to hear it in the paper and they didn't tell us directly," said Zoe.

Zoe was responding to a recent statement by Chris Reid, Deh Cho First Nation (DCFN) chief negotiator, who said DCFN leadership planned to go the mediation route.

Herb Norwegian, boundaries co-ordinator for the DCFN, said the Deh Cho has presented the Dogrib with a map that would see the Horn Plateau boundary run between each side's proposed boundary. The Dogrib would still be entitled to hunt and trap up to their "Monfwi line," In turn, the Deh Cho could harvest up to their suggested boundary, the watershed line. However, the Dogrib have not responded, Norwegian said.

The Dogrib wanted to meet the Deh Cho "elder to elder" on Jan. 14, according to Zoe, but as of last Monday he said they've received no response to the proposed the meeting yet.

Norwegian said the meeting should also involve harvesters and no set date had been discussed. If that can't be done, then a chief-to-chief meeting may be necessary, Norwegian suggested.

Although he said he doesn't want to put any pressure on the Dogrib, Norwegian said federal mediation may be required.

"We need some mechanism in place to say that it is an option. If the minister (Robert Nault) is on side on this one, that's great," Norwegian said.

Nault is scheduled to meet with DCFN leadership on Friday morning.

Zoe said Reid's allegation the Dogrib reneged on a tentative agreement over the Horn Plateau boundary is only one side of the story.

"They have their opinions and understanding," he said. "The reason we don't have the boundary settled is because we are working out our differences."

Zoe said the Dogrib are ready to sign their land-claim final agreement once outstanding issues like the boundary dispute are settled.

"We still need to do a little more prodding," he said. "I want to sign the final agreement tomorrow."

The Dogrib face turmoil from outside forces on all sides as they plod toward the completion of their agreement.

The North Slave Metis Alliance launched an injunction against the Dogrib to stop the land claim until they acknowledge Metis interests in the process. A judgment should come down this month.

The Dogrib and the Akaitcho Treaty Nation almost ended up in court over a separate boundary dispute in November. Both sides are continuing negotiations.