Dene National / AFN) Regional Chief, Norman Yakeleya is dedicated to upholding and protecting the rights and interests of the Dene Nation. A recent historical breakfast meeting with the newly elected 19th Legislative Assembly has left him feeling optimistic about strengthing the Dene Nation’s relationship with the new government.

Chief Yakeleya says the first meal with the MLAs was not the last supper. Arthur C. Green/Submitted Image

“I want to state very clearly that the Dene Nation feels optimistic and hopeful with the new 19th Assembly MLA’s that were elected about a week ago,” Chief Yakeleya said. “The reason why we are feeling optimistic, hopeful and very positive that the Dene Nation extended their hands to the MLA’s and hosted a historical meal with them.”

The meeting took place on October, 8 in Yellowknife, Chief Yakeleya says.

The Dene Nation is located in Denendeh, meaning “the land of the people,” which covers the majority of the NWT and is comprised of the Gwich’in, Sahtu, Dehcho, Tlicho and Akaitcho regions.

“All the MLA’s graciously accepted to sit with the Dene Nation,” Chief Yakeleya said. ” During the meal, we talked about rebuilding our relationship with a territorial government.”

There is approximately 15,000 Dene in the North, who are signatories to Treaty 8 signed in 1899 and Treaty 11 signed in 1921, as well as Modern Treaty Agreements. The spirit and intent of the Treaty include clean air, clean and abundant water that can sustain all living things and land that is healthy and can sustain all that live on it, including the Dene.

Chief Yakeleya says the sit-down meal was a historical moment for the Dene Nation because it was the first time in history that the Dene Nation Executive has sat down with the MLAs of the Northwest Territories.

“The Dene Nation says many heartbeats, but one drum, one song and one voice,” Chief Yakeleya said. “We extended the olive branch to say we want to work with you at a higher level when the North needs everyone.”

Chief Yakeleya says that if the new government had certainty and the Aboriginal governments had certainty, the people would see a change in the way business is done in the Northwest Territories. Arthur C. Green/The Moose 100.1 FM

Chief Yakeleya says that when the MLAs head to Ottawa, we want them to speak with one voice because the needs are so great in the North and the MLAs have definitely heard the needs from their constituencies.

“There is a saying from an elder that I heard, that if you have one arrow it’s easy to break,” Chief Yakeleya said. “But if you have five or ten arrows it’s tougher to break.”

Chief Yakeleya says that is the philosophy of the Dene Nation and that’s the strength of the Northern people.

“Let’s build an ark together,” Chief Yakeleya said. “We have to inspire hope for our people.”

“Northerners have needs and so we reached out to the newly elected MLA’s with that spirit of intent and to rebuild again our relationship with the government of the Northwest Territories,” Chief Yakeleya said. “Our knowledge keepers, known as elders, have always told us growing up to work together.”

Chief Yakeleya says he reminded the MLA’s that those two words are very simple, but seems so challenging and difficult at times to hold those two words together, on working together.

“Let us put our minds together and see what type of future we can have for our children,” Chief Yakeleya said. “The people believe in the MLAs, that’s why they’re elected. they have a dream, and Dene Nation has a dream.”

Chief Yakeleya says the first meal with the MLAs was not the last supper.

“We at the Dene Nation know the MLAs will be setting their priorities and that they will form the government,” Chief Yakeleya said. “So I reminded the MLAs when they set the priorities they would take consideration of the Dene Nation’s priorities.”

Chief Yakeleya also spoke with the MLAs about bringing the power of decision back to the communities and regions. Arthur C. Green/The Moose 100.1 FM

Chief Yakeleya says that to do that it has to be the political will of the people that will create this change.

“The status quo is no longer acceptable,” Chief Yakeleya said. “As we know from the last assembly, that is definitely not a starting point.”

Chief Yakeleya also spoke with the MLAs about bringing the power of decision back to the communities and regions.

“We have seen these powers being deleted, taken out of the regions and brought back into Yellowknife as the decision making powers and that’s not acceptable,” Chief Yakeleya said. “Consensus government does work. Our responses to our questions to the MLAs all have clearly stated that they support consensus government, bringing the decision-making powers back to the people.”

The third point Chief Yakeleya says that he raised with the MLAs at the meeting is on the certainty of the political landscape within the Dene Nation, then again, the Northwest Territories.

“We want certainty as much as they want certainty,” Chief Yakeleya said. “So to create that certainty, we all agreed that the priority of settling land claims, negotiating self govern agreements, and implementing self govern agreement chapters, that’s bring certainty.”

Chief Yakeleya says that if the new government had certainty and the Aboriginal governments had certainty, the people would see a change in the way business is done in the Northwest Territories.

“Let’s build an ark together,” Chief Yakeleya said. “We have to inspire hope for our people.”

Chief Yakeleya says the feedback he received at the meeting with the MLAs was really positive for the Dene Nation. The Legislative Assembly will resume on Friday, October 25.

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