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RELATING HISTORIC REFLECTIONS – One of the speakers’ events, now available online, takes place at Yukon College. Photo courtesy YUKON COLLEGE

Reflecting on self-government talks now available online

Four panel discussions featuring key participants in Yukon First Nations self-government negotiations reflecting on the process and what was achieved are now available on the Yukon College website.

By Whitehorse Star on November 28, 2019

Four panel discussions featuring key participants in Yukon First Nations self-government negotiations reflecting on the process and what was achieved are now available on the Yukon College website.  

The Perspectives Series was held between January 2018 and January 2019. They were organized and presented by the college in partnership with the Yukon government.

Each talk attracted audiences of over 100 people to the Ayamdigut campus. 

In the first talk, former Teslin Tlingit Council chief Sam Johnston and Judy Gingell, a former Council of Yukon First Nations grand chief, talk about their experiences developing the historic position paper Together Today For Our Children Tomorrow.

They speak of travelling to Ottawa in 1973 and presenting it to then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chretien, the minister of Indian Affairs, kickstarting the negotiation of a modern-day treaty; the first in Canada. 

“They asked us, ‘how long is this going to take?’ We answered, ‘no more than six months,’ ” Johnston said at the event, laughing with the audience.

“Twenty years later, we were still at it. But I am glad to say that Teslin (Tlingit Council) was one of the first four to sign the agreement.” 

“This document we took to Ottawa was the product of many, many meetings,” Gingell said at the event.

“Every community brought forward a list of things they wanted to see happen. We invited the Yukon Indian women’s organizations and the non-status Indians.

“Everything was thought out well and talked out well. We were thinking of the younger generations. We did not want them to go through what we did,” said Gingell. 

Subsequent panels featured negotiators Albert Peter, Victor Mitander and Barry Stuart recalling the negotiations, spirit and intent of the Umbrella Final Agreement (UFA) signed in 1993 among Canada, the territory and Yukon First Nations.

Also featured were former chiefs Hammond Dick of the Ross River Dena Council and David Johnny Sr. of the White River First Nation.

They speak about the reasons their First Nations forged a path toward self-determination outside the UFA. 

 The final discussion featured Bill Webber, Margaret Commodore and Charlie Eikland speaking about the Yukon Association of Non-Status Indians (YANSI) and their struggle for representation in the negotiations. Commodore, who now lives in B.C., went on to serve as an NDP cabinet minister between 1985 and 1992.

“These panels are a fantastic opportunity to hear directly from the people who were at the table during negotiations — to hear their stories, their hopes and why the negotiations were so important,” Haley Mitander, a facilitator with First Nations Initiatives at the college and one of the series organizers,” said Tuesday.

“We are thrilled to be able to share them as a resource for everyone.”

“This project provided a platform for past leaders and negotiators to share untold stories that give us greater insight into Yukon treaties and the negotiations behind them, including the First Nations that are forging their own path outside the Umbrella Final Agreement,” added Suzan Davy, the Yukon government’s director of First Nations Relations and Capacity Development, Aboriginal Relations.

“These panels give us an opportunity to learn from their experiences and better understand their vision for a more inclusive Yukon. I am excited that these series are now available online for everyone to watch and learn from.”  

Each video was filmed and edited by Shakat Media. They are available to view at yukoncollege.yk.ca/perspectives-series. 

Comments (1)

Up 10 Down 4

jc on Nov 28, 2019 at 5:34 pm

I think Native self government is a great idea. My concern however, will it eventually get them off government funding? Will they eventually be required to support themselves in the future? They have their land and there's a lot of minerals and oil and gas. There is a lot of money under the ground. I know several Native groups down in the the US have done this and are self supporting. Just asking.

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