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Gwich'in leaders planning a tour
President moving forward after general assembly concludes

Sarah Ladik
Northern News Services
Thursday, September 1, 2016

The swearing in has taken place, much food has been eaten and the delegates have gone home. Now that the Gwich'in Tribal Council's annual general assembly is all done, the real work begins.

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Bobbie Jo Greenland-Morgan, left, and Jordan Peterson are sworn in as the Gwich'in Tribal Council's new executive at the annual general assembly Aug. 24. - Sarah Ladik/NNSL photo

"We're taking steps right away to bring our people together," said president Bobbie Jo Greenland-Morgan.

"That was the intent before, but now we're really going to do it."

To that end, the executive and a few high-level employees will be setting off for a community tour during the week of Sept. 14, primarily to bring everyone up to speed on the status of self-government negotiations. Greenland-Morgan said some people may have left the assembly under the false impression that things have ground to halt, but that the GTC hopes to address those concerns over the course of the tour.

"We're going to have open meetings to iron out the misinterpretations of the claim, and what self-government really means," she told the Drum Aug. 29.

"It's not a stop. It's a bit of a slow down to address internal business, and to bring everyone onto the same page."

While the Nihtat Gwich'in Council caused a stir last month when its members voted to pull out of the negotiation process after the organization's concerns went unanswered, Greenland-Morgan said she understands and supports that decision.

"NGC was doing what everyone should be doing," she said, explaining that members had called for clarification and help understanding the latest documents and were not satisfied until they got it.

"Communication is the biggest key to everything. If we do that, we'll be OK moving forward."

Other concerns were raised over the course of the assembly, ranging from specific issues facing individual designated Gwich'in authorities, to broad, sweeping declarations linking the NWT's Gwich'in population to the greater nation in the North.

Vice-president Jordan Peterson proposed a resolution that ultimately was carried unanimously that would connect disparate groups in different jurisdictions together to speak with one voice.

"Climate change and oil development pressures in the Porcupine caribou herd calving grounds on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge remain significant threats to the Gwich'in way of life, to which the herd is central," read the declaration drafted at the 2016 Biennial Gwich'in Gathering in Arctic Village, Alaska. "The declaration recognizes that border lines have created division among the Gwich'in Nation and by committing to collaborate across these borders, efforts made towards common issues will be strengthened while upholding and honoring the natural laws and environment."

Other issues raised included concerns over the online voting system used in this summer's election.

"There were a lot of discrepancies in this election," said Nihtat delegate Barry Greenland Aug. 24, making it clear he had no issue with the results, just how the election had been administered, including the electronic system that allowed participants outside the settlement area to vote for weeks preceding the official election date.

"It was stated that the election would take place on a certain day at a certain time. That did not happen."

Greenland-Morgan told the Drum that the election policy definitely can and will be improved, but that the council will most likely continue with online voting. Eighty per cent of the people who voted in June, she said, indicated that they liked the new system.

Once again, the new president emphasized the importance of participation for all.

"The way it works with political roles like this, I have my own opinions, but I have direction from the assembly and we follow the land claim," she said.

"People really need to get involved. The power is in the people."

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