The Demands

While there had existed competition and rivalry among the First Nations of the region up until then, the 1970s marked a desire for cultural renewal and the realization on the part of the Dene of the need for unity and cooperation. In 1970, the 16 Dene clan chiefs created the Northwest Territories Indian Brotherhood with the intention of defending their rights and developing their communities. New leaders such as Georges Erasmus, Steve Kakfwi, Jim Antoine, Frank T'Seleie, and Nellie Cournoyea raised their voice in defense of the Dene claims. It was also during this decade, following the recommendations of the Berger commission, that the attitude of the Canadian government toward Native people changed. Without ever questioning the validity of treaties 8 and 11, the government nonetheless recognized that it did not respect all of their terms. After the failure of their demands, the Dene decided to reaffirm their determination, and in 1978 adopted the name of "Dene Nation." In its quest for self-determination, the Dene Nation, in conjunction with the Métis association of the Northwest Territories, suggested in 1981 to the entire population of the western Arctic the creation of "Denendeh" (the Land of the Dene), a territorial entity comparable to a Canadian province.

Beyond the question of the Natives' territorial rights, their campaigns also focused on the construction of oil pipelines along the migration routes of caribou, something to which the Dene were fiercely opposed. There was also the question of damages caused by dams, for which the Dene demanded compensation (such as the claim by the Chipewyan First Nation of Athapaska regarding the Wac Bennett dam and the damages caused to reservation 201).

During the negotiating process, the Dene joined forces with the Métis. However, in the course of the 1990s, faced with the failure of a common settlement with both nations, Ottawa agreed to negotiate with each nation separately. Five regions emerged from this, for which certain agreements were signed and others are still pending: the Mackenzie delta (Gwich'in agreement signed in 1991), the Sahtu settlement area (agreement signed in 1993), the Deh Cho, the North Slave, and the South Slave (negotiations under way). Overall, the agreements settled questions of creation of reservations, land management, participation in the decision-making process, and financial compensations.

Stéphanie Eveno

See also Dene; Dogrib (Tlicho); Gwich'in; Gwich'in Settlement Area; Land Claims; Métis; Northern Athapaskan Languages; Sahtu Settlement Area; Tutchone

Further Reading

Bissonnette, Alain, Denendeh: luttes et conjonctures, M.A.

Université de Montréal, département d'anthropologie, 1982 Clark, McFayden (editor), Northern Athapascan Conference, 1971, National Museum of Man, Mercury Series, Ottawa: National Museum of Man, 1975 Fumoleau, René, As Long As this Land Shall Last: A History of Treaty 8 and Treaty 11: 1870-1939, Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1975

Irimoto, Takashi & Takako Yamada (editors), Circumpolar Religion and Ecology: An Anthropology of the North, Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press, c.1994 Legros, Dominique, "Postmodernité du corbeau dans la tradition tutchone athapascane." Recherches Amérindiennes au Québec, 28(3) (1998): 27-39 Rice, Keren, "Les langues athapascanes du Nord." Recherches Amérindiennes au Québec, 28(3) (1998): 75-92

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