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Treaties, teaching, and reconciliation: What’s on the agenda for the Dehcho Assembly

Grand Chief Gladys Norwegian says the Dehcho First Nations have much to discuss in their annual assembly, including Treaty 11.

Gladys Norwegian, grand chief of the Dehcho First Nations, says Treaty 11 will be top of mind during the gathering of leaders for their annual assembly. (Kate Kyle/CBC)

Treaties don’t make nations, nations make treaties — that’s this year’s theme for the Dehcho Assembly in Fort Simpson, N.W.T.

The annual assembly has leaders from across the region gather to discuss a range of issues affecting their people.

Gladys Norwegian is the grand chief of the Dehcho First Nations. She said Treaty 11 will be a main discussion point, as well as the latest on the Dehcho land claim and self-government negotiations.

Those negotiations have been going on for years.

“The feeling is that we have not made any headway when it comes to land and resources,” Norwegian said.

So now, she said, the First Nations will put aside their land claim negotiations for the moment to focus on self-government, education in the regions and the healthcare system.

“We need to [make sure] our youth have the best Western education as well as our Dene teachings,” Norwegian said.

She said a high percentage of youth in the region who graduate high school need to take an access program before they can go on to college or university, and that’s something she’s looking to change.

Another discussion will revolve around the labour force in the region, and what jobs are needed in small communities where, Norwegian said, work is hard to come by.

RCMP are also expected to make a presentation at the assembly. They are set to discuss crime rates in communities following the legalisation of cannabis last October.

Norwegian also expects to ask questions about how the RCMP will respond to the major report from the inquiry missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, which was released earlier this month.

The inquiry’s final report includes many recommendations, including several for police, on how to address violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada.

The Dehcho Assembly starts in Fort Simpson on Tuesday.

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