The Dene Nation says the Covid-19 pandemic has forced the postponement of its annual national assembly, originally scheduled to take place in Fort Good Hope this July.
Dene National Chief Norman Yakeleya said the decision was based on the recommendations of the territory’s chief public health officer, Dr Kami Kandola.
The assembly will be rescheduled for later this year or next summer.
“The grand chiefs met over a number of times and they’ve come to a decision that given the Covid and the status of travelling and organizing, we’ve wanted to postpone the AGM and maybe consider December, maybe next year,” Yakeleya said.
“Of course, we want to maintain some safety to our people.”
Every summer, members from 30 communities in five regions of Denendeh – the Gwich’in, Sahtu, Deh Cho, Tłı̨chǫ, and Akaitcho – gather for formal sessions and activities such as handgames and dancing.
Fort Good Hope last hosted the assembly in 2010. The CBC first reported the postponement of this year’s event.
Next year will mark the 100th year since the signing of the last of the numbered treaties, Treaty 11, set in place in 1921.
Meanwhile, Yakeleya said the Dene Nation was still waiting for Premier Caroline Cochrane and the territorial government to respond to a request for an elected leadership table.
“We’ve been asking the premier with several requests to have an elected political leadership table, just as we now have with the three federal ministers, our MP, and National Chief [Perry] Bellegarde,” said Yakeleya.
Premier Cochrane had offered Dene chiefs seats on an economic advisory council, Yakeleya said, but had not yet responded to a Dene Nation discussion paper on the subject of the leadership table.
“The MLAs along with the ministers … need to look at the big part of the reconciliation of the Indigenous leaders of the Inuvialuit, the Métis, and of the Dene, and look at setting up a political elected table,” Yakeleya told reporters at a news conference on Thursday.
Later that day, Yakeleya told Cabin Radio he had missed a call with Cochrane as he was already speaking by phone with Bellegarde and federal ministers.
“It was just the luck of the draw that we had in our meeting and we had to reschedule again,” he said.