Originally known as the Council for Yukon Indians, the Council for Yukon First Nations (CYFN) was established to negotiate native land claims and self-government with the government of Canada. The Council continues to serve as a public service agency for 11 of 14 First Nations of the Yukon Territory.
Concerted efforts by Yukon First Nations to address public policy concerns began in 1972, when the Yukon Native Brotherhood submitted a petition to the Canadian government protesting the effects of petroleum exploration in Yukon on the homeland and culture of indigenous people. The publication of Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow by Yukon Native Brotherhood leader Elijah Smith in 1973 advanced the cause of securing a land claim for aboriginal peoples of the territory. The Council for Yukon Indians (CYI) was formed that year to enter negotiations for a land claim with the government of Canada. Yukon Territory joined the negotiations as a third party when the territory was granted responsible government in 1979.
Issues debated by the Council for Yukon Indians and the Canadian government included the size and value of the land claim, subsistence hunting and fishing rights, and the definition and recognition of rights of indigenous peoples and "nonstatus" Indians in the territory. Completion of the treaty proved difficult, the CYI General Assembly rejected tentative agreements between the government of Canada and the CYI leadership in 1976 and 1984.
An agreement in principle was ultimately reached in 1988, which transferred over 25,000 square miles of land and over $230 million to the CYI over a period of 15 years. The agreement also allowed for the development of Yukon Indian self-government. The treaty, known as the Umbrella Final Agreement, was signed in 1990, and a model for Yukon native self-government was reached the following year.
Four Yukon First Nations—Champagne-Aishinik First Nation, Nacho Nyak Dun, Teslin Tlingit Council, and Vuntut Gwich'in First Nation—participated in negotiations to establish the model for land and cash allocations. They reached an agreement in 1992, and federal legislation enacting the land claim and First Nations self-government passed in 1994. In 1995, the CYI adopted a new constitution and changed its name to the Council for Yukon First Nations (CYFN).
Three additional groups—the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation, the Selkirk First Nation, and the Tr'ondek H'wechin First Nation—signed the Umbrella Final Agreement by 1998. Four groups—the Carcorss-Tagish First Nation, the Kluane First Nation, the Ta'an Kwachan First Nation, and the White River First Nation—have also entered negotiations to establish self-government. Three other groups (Liard First Nation, Kwanlin Dun First Nation, and Ross River Dena Council) elected to operate outside of the CYFN.
In addition to administering First Nations land claims and self-government, the CYFN also provides educational and health services to First Nations people and lobbies for political concerns at the federal and territorial level.
J. Brent Etzel
See also Council for Yukon Indians Umbrella Final Agreement; Schulz, Ed
Biggs, Bill, Jurisdictional Responsibilities for Land Resources, Land Use and Development in the Yukon Territory and Northwest Territories, Ottawa: Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, 1998
Cameron, Kirk & Graham White, Northern Governments in Transition, Montreal: Institute for Research on Public Policy, 1995
Canada, Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Guide to the Yukon Indian Land Claim Agreement-In-Principle, Ottawa: Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, 1989
Council of Yukon First Nations website: http://www.cyfn.ca/ Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Umbrella Final Agreement Between the Government of Canada, the Council for Yukon Indians and the Government of the Yukon, Ottawa: Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, 1993 Yukon Native Brotherhood, Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow; a Statement of Grievances and an Approach to Settlement by the Yukon Indian People, Whitehorse: Yukon Native Brotherhood, 1973
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