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Should the Tłı̨chǫ be the NWT’s sixth region?

Tłı̨chǫ flags in Behchokǫ̀. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio

The MLA for the Northwest Territories’ Tłı̨chǫ communities says they should become part of a new, sixth administrative region of the NWT.

Jane Weyallon Armstrong has spent recent days in the territorial legislature arguing that the four communities overseen by the Tłı̨chǫ Government don’t belong in the GNWT’s North Slave region with Yellowknife.

Weyallon Armstrong says splitting off Behchokǫ̀, Wekweètì, Whatì and Gamètì into a Tłı̨chǫ region would hand more financial authority to those communities, help to provide more programs and services tailored to Tłı̨chǫ residents, create more employment, and ensure the GNWT in that region is “more accountable to the Tłı̨chǫ people.”

But the NWT government says no such change could be made without what Premier Caroline Cochrane called “a huge consultation process.”



Responding to Weyallon Armstrong’s request, the premier said: “The regions aren’t divided just by Indigenous governments. If we did that, that would be really cumbersome. I think we need to look at it, but we need to figure out a better way.

“It’s a little bit simpler with the Tłı̨chǫ – they are one community, one government – but we have some regions that have multiple Indigenous governments. In fact, we have some communities that have multiple Indigenous governments. So to define the regions just by the Indigenous governments, I think, would be probably not feasible to do.”

It’s not clear that Weyallon Armstrong was pursuing the matter purely in terms of Indigenous governments.

On Friday last week, the first time she raised the issue in the legislature, the Monfwi MLA drew a comparison with the Sahtu and Dehcho not on the grounds of Indigenous governance, but in terms of their communities’ geographical proximity to each other and size.



“If Tłı̨chǫ region was created, the population would be greater than the population of the Sahtu and Dehcho regions,” she said.

The NWT Bureau of Statistics has slightly different data. The bureau states that the Dehcho had 3,316 in 2022, making it slightly larger than the Tłı̨chǫ’s 3,027 people, but the Sahtu did have a lower population at 2,669.

The fact that the NWT Bureau of Statistics carries figures for the “Tłı̨chǫ region” on its website indicates that the territorial government recognizes the region in some of its operations, even if the GNWT as a whole doesn’t give it full administrative region status.

The bureau often works with data from Statistics Canada, the national agency, which in 2011 introduced census division Region 3 in the NWT. Region 3 is in effect a statistical Tłı̨chǫ region, incorporating only the four Tłı̨chǫ communities.

“The regions need to be consistent within all the departments so there are no confusions,” said Weyallon Armstrong, noting the territorial government committed in 2019 to enhancing regional decision-making authority within the GNWT.

“This is real regional decision-making authority,” she declared of her plan, adding that a new region would meet the UN Declaration’s demand that Indigenous peoples be able to “freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”

On Friday last week, when Cochrane was absent with Covid-19, finance minister Caroline Wawzonek told Weyallon Armstrong she could see “administrative barriers” to a Tłı̨chǫ region but added: “That doesn’t mean that this can’t be done. It’s certainly been done before, but it’s something that would have to be looked at by the Department of Executive and Indigenous Affairs.”

Cochrane, representing that department on Monday (she wore a face mask to the legislature in light of her recent Covid-19 diagnosis), said: “I don’t think it’s something that’s easily done.”



“It’s the cabinet’s decision. They can do it, but they refuse to do it, to acknowledge Tłı̨chǫ as a region,” said Weyallon Armstrong.

“The colonial government is the one that created this North Slave. They didn’t even consult us to be part of the North Slave region.”

“I hear that the Tłı̨chǫ don’t want to be part of the North Slave. I’m sure the NWT Métis and the Kátł’odeeche and all those might not want to be part of the South Slave,” Cochrane responded.

“I’m sure the seven indigenous governments in the Sahtu might not want to be part of the Sahtu.

“It would be a long, cumbersome process to do, and I don’t think it would be done any justice to try to do it in a couple of months at the end of a government.”