The Kátł’odeeche First Nation (KFN) says it is taking legal action against two Métis groups and the NWT government over cabins they allege were illegally built on KFN territory.
KFN named the Northwest Territory Métis Nation (NWTMN), Hay River Métis Government Council, and territorial government as the subjects of legal action in a news release on Thursday.
The First Nation wants construction to be halted and enforcement action taken by the GNWT.
While declining to comment on legal proceedings, Métis Nation president Garry Bailey said the land in question is just as much their territory as it is KFN’s.
“We’ve been here for hundreds of years, just like they have. We’re their damn children – I don’t know how they can think that we’re not,” he told Cabin Radio.
In a previous argument over the same land – when the Métis wanted to erect a sign identifying the area as its traditional territory – KFN said its people had been there “since time immemorial” and asserted the NWTMN are the descendants of the Akaitcho Dene, not KFN.
Bailey said he would let the Supreme Court of the NWT settle the issue of whether the Métis can assert Section 35 rights over the land in question. Section 35 of the Constitution Act recognizes Indigenous rights but does not define specifically what these rights are.
“They claim to have ‘recognized section 35 rights’ to build cabins in our territory,” said KFN Chief April Martel in a statement, alleging the Hay River Métis Government Council and the NWTMN only began asserting rights when they moved to Hay River.
“Their asserted rights have not been ‘recognized’ or ‘established’ by any government or in any court, and certainly not by the KFN,” Martel continued.
“Our Elders know this land. This group of Métis were never out on our land until they started moving here from other communities for work.”
Inventory of cabins
The First Nation said it had raised concerns about unauthorized cabin construction with the federal and territorial governments for years, with no results.
KFN says it has developed an inventory of all cabins – including those it claims are unauthorized – on its territory, and has brought that to the territory’s Department of Lands with a request that the Northwest Territories Lands Act’s provisions for removing unauthorized property be enforced.
KFN said there had been no response to date. The territorial government, approached for comment, had not responded by the time of publication.
Recently, KFN alleges, the Métis have begun building cabins without permission from the territorial government or First Nation at Thagai Dehé (Whitesand River) in the Ejıé Túé (Buffalo Lake) area and at Denı́Dea (Birch Creek).
“KFN will no longer tolerate the infringement of its Treaty and Aboriginal rights and titles, the disrespectful actions of the [Métis Nation and Métis Council] and its members within Kátł’odeeche Got’ı̨e Ndehe, or the disregard for its own laws and agreements by the GNWT,” said Martel.
She called on the territorial government to “uphold its laws and obligations” and for everyone involved to respect “existing rights, laws, and agreements.”
Trevor Beck, president of the Hay River Métis Government Council, was named by KFN as an individual involved in building the cabins in question.
Beck declined to comment on the allegation or the legal action, telling Cabin Radio: “We will talk to you later.”