Discussion series reflecting on Yukon First Nations self-government negotiations now available online
WHITEHORSE, YT — Four panel discussions featuring key participants in Yukon First Nations self-government negotiations reflecting on the process and what was achieved are now available on the Yukon College website.
The Perspectives Series was held between January 2018 and January 2019. They were organized and presented by the College in partnership with the Government of Yukon. Each talk attracted audiences of over 100 people to Ayamdigut campus.
In the first talk, former Teslin Tlingit Council chief Sam Johnston and former Council of Yukon First Nations grand chief Judy Gingell talk about their experiences developing the historic position paper Together Today For Our Children Tomorrow, traveling to Ottawa in 1973 and presenting it to then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau and minister of Indian Affairs Jean Chretien — kickstarting the negotiation of a modern-day treaty; the first in Canada.
“They asked us, ‘how long is this going to take?’ We answered, ‘no more than six months’,” said Johnston at the event, laughing with the audience. “Twenty years later we were still at it. But I am glad to say that Teslin (Tlingit Council) was one of the first four to sign the agreement.”
“This document we took to Ottawa was the product of many, many meetings. Every community brought forward a list of things they wanted to see happen. We invited the Yukon Indian women’s organizations and the non-status Indians. Everything was thought out well and talked out well. We were thinking of the younger generations. We did not want them to go through what we did,” said Gingell at the event.
Subsequent panels featured negotiators Albert Peter, Victor Mitander and Barry Stuart recalling the negotiations, spirit and intent of the Umbrella Final Agreement (UFA) signed in 1993 between Canada, Yukon and Yukon First Nations, and former chiefs Hammond Dick of the Ross River Dena Council and David Johnny Sr. of the White River First Nation speaking about the reasons their First Nations forged a path towards self-determination outside the UFA.
The final discussion featured Bill Webber, Margaret Commodore and Charlie Eikland speaking about the Yukon Association of Non-Status Indians (YANSI) and their struggle for representation in the negotiations.
“These panels are a fantastic opportunity to hear directly from the people who were at the table during negotiations — to hear their stories, their hopes and why the negotiations were so important. We are thrilled to be able to share them as a resource for everyone,” said Haley Mitander, facilitator with First Nations Initiatives at Yukon College and one of the series organizers.
“This project provided a platform for past leaders and negotiators to share untold stories that give us greater insight into Yukon treaties and the negotiations behind them, including the First Nations that are forging their own path outside the Umbrella Final Agreement. These panels give us an opportunity to learn from their experiences and better understand their vision for a more inclusive Yukon. I am excited that these series are now available online for everyone to watch and learn from,” said Suzan Davy, director of First Nations Relations and Capacity Development, Aboriginal Relations at Government of Yukon.