The Acho Dene Koe First Nation and Fort Liard Métis moved one step closer to finalizing their land claim and community self-government agreement last week with the signing of an agreement in principle with the territorial government.
The signing represents the start of negotiations on a land and resources final agreement for the community, which will deal with land, financial payments, public community government and the harvesting of wildlife, trees and plants, among other issues tied to lands and citizenship.
“This signing is an important milestone along the journey of providing clarity and certainty on the land and resource rights of the Acho Dene Koe First Nation within the Northwest Territories,” NWT Premier Bob McLeod said in a press release last week.
The initial framework agreement for the community comprehensive land claims process was signed in July of 2008, committing the parties to two phases of negotiations, starting with land and resources before moving on to self-government.
While the land and resources agreement will be community based, the framework agreement notes that self-government negotiations will be looked at within a regional context. Negotiations on self-government won’t take place until at least 10 years after the lands and resources agreement in signed.
Once phase one is completed, the First Nation and Métis in Fort Liard will have the opportunity to begin discussions with Canada, BC and Yukon to clarify their rights around their asserted territory, which crosses into other jurisdictions.
The finalized agreement in principle has now been forwarded to Canada, also a party to the negotiations, for signing now that it has been signed on behalf of the GNWT.
Once complete, it will become the first community-based land and resources agreement in the NWT, according to GNWT officials.
“Today’s signing is an important step towards a positive future for the people of the Acho Dene Koe First Nation,” said Chief Harry Deneron. “Our people look forward to joining with the government of the Northwest Territories in creating a strong, prosperous Northwest Territories where we can all succeed.