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DEDICATED TO HIS PEOPLE – Robert Hager, the former chief of the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun, addresses a rally outside the Yukon Government Main Adminisration Building May 2014.

Late chief helped bring about self- government

Robert Hager is being remembered as a former Northern Tutchone chief who stood his ground.

By Chuck Tobin on May 24, 2016

Robert Hager is being remembered as a former Northern Tutchone chief who stood his ground.

Hager died last Friday at the age of 75.

It was Hager as chief of Mayo’s First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun and three other chiefs who refused to accept a proposed aboriginal land claim settlement in the early 1980s, primarily because it did not provide for aboriginal self-government.

Their refusal to accept the proposal led to the collapse of the deal. It forced the federal government to rethink its approach to land claims, and eventually rewrite the national policy to include provisions for self-government.

“Robert was instrumental in defending his culture and his language,” Na-cho Nyak Dun Chief Simon Mervyn said in an interview this morning.

Mervyn said he and Hager were friends who used to run heavy equipment together as young men.

Hager loved the land, and hunting was one his great passions, as was sharing his knowledge with young people, he said.

Mervyn said Hager was instrumental in blocking the land claim proposal in the early ’80s because it did not comply with his understanding of culture and tradition.

His role in the settlement of aboriginal claims in the territory will be remembered in the history books, he said.

It was the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun with Hager as chief who stood behind a Northern Tutchone elder who had been charged with a fishing infraction by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, claiming aboriginal rights.

Ottawa withdrew the charge at the 11th hour, on the eve of the trial.

“I can honestly say he was really sincere in his belief of his people,” said Mervyn.

Premier Darrell Pasloski offered his condolences to Hager’s family in a tweet last Friday.

“He led his FN on it’s journey to self-government,” Pasloski tweeted.

Opposition Leader Liz Hanson of the NDP remembered Hager as a “formidable force” during the Yukon land claim negotiations.

It was Hager who was among those responsible for bringing about self-government.

As well, it was the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun which was among the four First Nations to sign off on their agreements in 1993, she pointed out in a statement last Friday.

“Robert worked extremely hard for his community to protect Na-cho Nyak Dun and Northern Tutchone traditions,” added Mayo-Tatchun MLA Jim Tredger of the NDP.

“He was a true leader. Chief Hager maintained his contact with the land throughout his life, and he shared that with his community.”

Chief Ruth Massie of the Council of Yukon First Nations (CYFN) remembered Hager this morning as a proud leader who not only was chief but was also chief land claim negotiator for his First Nation because of his believe in aboriginal rights and title.

“He really believed in self-government because he grew up in the era of self-reliance and self-sufficiency,” she said.

“Chief Hager was one of the first of four leaders that signed land claims but he was also one of the 12 that went to Ottawa (in 1973) to deliver Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow,” Massie pointed out.

“He was one of the original leaders in our land claim process.”

The grand chief said Hager took every opportunity to let everybody in government know about aboriginal rights and title.

“I learned a lot from Robert,” Massie said.

“He always came in and had chats with whoever was in CYFN to make sure we knew the importance of our agreements.

“He explained the spirit and intent of the chapters just to make sure we knew where it came from,” Massie said. “He was a proud leader.”

Comments (1)

Up 8 Down 0

Dee on May 24, 2016 at 5:59 pm

Robert did play an impressive role in Yukon Land Claims, holding out for a better deal and finally signing our agreement. He did make it a better place for all Yukon First Nations along with 3 other Chiefs by not agreeing to the first agreement. So many opportunities are available to First Nation as a direct result of these agreements.
For historical purposes, it was actually Peter Lucas who was the Mayo Chief at the time that went to Ottawa with the other 11 Chiefs that presented the Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow document to Ottawa. Peter was a great traditional Chief and shouldn't be forgotten. Please see the attached. http://www.eco.gov.yk.ca/pdf/together_today_for_our_children_tomorrow.pdf

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