Yellowknife’s Indigenous land acknowledgement needs to change

Yellowknife’s Indigenous land acknowledgement needs to change

From James Lawrance:

The Aboriginal Declaration of Recognition on the home page of the City of Yellowknife website is appallingly discriminatory, disinformation and offensive. It has to come down.

The explanation excludes the Tłįcho people and ignores that Yellowknife is within traditional Tłįcho territory and overlaps and coexists with the Chief Drygeese Territory.

The idea that the Chief Drygeese Territory has now become the home of the North Slave Métis Alliance must surprise the Yellowknives Dene First Nation I think.

For many months, Mayor Rebecca Alty has surly refused to immediately remove or correct the language, without explanation or good reason. The mayor was publicly and privately informed about this by the Tłįcho government. As an expert on these matters, and out of personal concern, I have presented the Mayor with a wealth of evidence that clearly demonstrates that her actions are not in accordance with the law and treaties. The mayor has refused to acknowledge the points I made and has refused to speak to me, even over the phone.

I presented this matter to Sheila Bassi-Kellett, the city’s chief administrator, at her reconciliation workshop at the Tree of Peace last September.

The traditional field of application of the Tłįcho – called Mowhì Gogha Dè Nįįtłèè – includes Yellowknife. It’s spelled out simply and clearly in the contract, an agreement that many people have been working towards for over 30 years. The overarching intent of the treaty, which the Crown sought to achieve on behalf of all Canadians, was to ensure recognition of the Tłįcho First Nation and protection of their lands and other rights.

This language that the Mayor is spreading to the world flouts treaties and is terribly discriminatory, unconstitutional, divisive and hurtful to many people on many levels.

It has to go down now.

Why does the mayor insist on telling the world that the Tłįcho are not part of Yellowknife?

I can’t imagine that the actual existence of our Tłįcho brothers and sisters isn’t enough for the mayor to recognize them. Many Tłįcho families live in Yellowknife, many are directly related to other townspeople, many pay city taxes, almost all Tłįcho people were born in Yellowknife in the last few decades, and the Tłįcho people are a boon to the city’s economy.

The Treaties and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms are non-negotiable for the city. Playing off the rights and interests of one group against those of another is the oldest trade in the colonial world. This blatant violation brings shame to the city and casts a dark light on the city’s leadership’s commitment to respecting Aboriginal people and their rights.

How can we trust the city when it comes to reconciliation and managing ongoing beneficial and cooperative relationships? More generally, how can any of us trust in any respect a community that is quick and easy to play with the identity of its own residents and turns its nose at constitutional rights? Will it be your rights, or mine, or your grandmother’s that they awkwardly trample on next?

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