The Kátł’odeeche First Nation (KFN) is the first group in the NWT to pass a land law allowing it to effectively manage its own land and resources, Chief April Martel said on Wednesday.
The land law gives KFN the power to make decisions over its land, resources, and economic development, something Martel says is an important step.
“This opens the door for where we want to go and what we want to develop on Kátł’odeeche Reserve,” she said.
Out of 497 eligible voters, 153 voted. Of those, 144 people voted in favour of the land law. There were eight votes not in favour and one spoiled ballot.
A little over 30 percent of eligible voters cast a vote. Only 20 percent needed to cast a ballot in order for the law to be passed, provided more than half of the votes were in favour.
The KFN is the 97th First Nations group to pass a land law in all of Canada, according to Martel.
Previously, the First Nation’s land and resources were governed by the Indian Act, which meant KFN had its funding administered by the government.
KFN will now directly receive and administer funding to manage the land. KFN’s land code development website states it will “allow for more timely and effective land management decisions to be made locally.”
The next step will be a transition period as responsibilities – and liabilities – are transferred to the KFN.
Martel says there are already ideas for change on the reserve.
“There’s a plan for everything with moving forward and for all areas of the Kátł’odeeche reserve,” she said.
Martel said the KFN must now make laws related to the transferred powers, which may require a new committee.
Martel said the shift had been a long process, as the community had to wait for an agreement to be created and signed by Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada.
According to the chief, the KFN “took it out of their hands and typed it up” to get the agreement signed after more than 10 months of waiting.
“I want to thank the Elders who created this reserve,” she said.
“They look forward to the future of their young people.”