Arctic Athabascan Council

The Arctic Athabascan Council is an international treaty organization established to foster a greater understanding of the heritage of the Athapaskan peoples of the Arctic and Subarctic North America and to represent the interests of Athapaskan First Nation governments in the Arctic Council.

Seven Athapaskan leaders from Alaska, Yukon, and the Northwest Territories signed the Council treaty in June 2000. Signatures included Chief Gary Harrison from Chickaloon Village Traditional Council, Chief Patrick Sayler from Healy Lake Traditional Council, Chief Randy Mayo from Stevens Village Tribal Government, Chief Gerald Albert from Northway Tribal Council, Grand Chief Ed Schultz from Council of Yukon First Nations, National Chief Bill Erasmus from Dene Nation, and President George Motin from Métis Nation.

At the Ministerial meeting of the Arctic Council in Barrow, Alaska in October 2000, the Arctic Athabascan Council applied and gained admittance as a permanent member of the council. The Arctic Athabascan Council represents four First Nation government bodies in Alaska: the Chickaloon Village Traditional Council (Nay'Dini'Aa Na), the Healy Lake Traditional Council (Mendas Cha-Ag), the Steven Village Tribal Government Council, and the Northway Tribal Council. On the Canadian side, the Arctic Athabascan Council represents three governing bodies, including the Council of Yukon First Nations, which represents 11 Yukon First Nations, the Dene Nations (Deh Cho First Nations), representing 30 Nations, and the Métis Nations, representing 13 communities. In total, the Arctic Athabascan Council represents approximately 32,000 indigenous peoples of Athapaskan descent from 23 language groups.

Within this umbrella organization, the Métis hold a special position, as their aboriginal rights were not recognized until 1982 (Constitution Act, 1982). The Métis were born from Cree, Ojibway, and Saulteaux women mixing with French, Scottish, Irish, and English men in the early stages of colonization in western Canada. Following the Métis's recognition as a distinct people, the Métis National Council was established in 1983. Within the Arctic Athabascan Council, the Dene Nations also represents some Métis Communities. The permanent office of the AAC is located in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada, within the administrative headquarters of the Yukon First Nations. The current chairperson is Ed Schultz, the Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations. The position as a chairperson of the council rotates among representative nations.

According to the council, the traditionally occupied area of the Athapaskan peoples stretches across three million square kilometers and includes Alaska, the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and includes parts of British Colombia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. Today, most Athapaskan peoples live in Alaska, Yukon, NorthWest Territories, and Manitoba. This vast Arctic and Subarctic landscape includes three of North America's largest river systems: the Mackenzie, Yukon, and Churchill rivers. The district of Athapaska includes areas of tundra and taiga, as well as high mountains, Mt McKinley, and Mt Logan. Ancestors of the Athapaskan peoples were semino-madic hunters who existed on a diet of caribou, moose, beaver, rabbit, and fish. Most of the Athapaskan peoples are inland people—taiga and tundra dwellers, with the exception of South Central Alaska (Tanana and Eyak) and the Hudson Bay (Chipweyan).

The Council is committed to environmental issues closely connected to the preservation of Athapaskan cultures and lifestyles. It is a member of the organization Canadian Arctic Indigenous Peoples Against Persistent Organic Pollutants (CAIPAP), which focuses on the preservation of northern ecosystems and the long-term effects of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) on northern indigenous peoples.

Gro Ween

See also Arctic Council; Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)

Further Reading

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