The Yellowknives Dene First Nation on Monday warned it “will not tolerate” houseboats mooring within its lands and waters.
Houseboats are a common sight off the shore of Yellowknife. However, the First Nation said it took issue with houseboaters beginning to anchor “on our side of the bay.”
The First Nation issued a map of Yellowknife Bay on which an orange line set out areas it considers to be off-limits to houseboaters.
The area highlighted includes the eastern side of Jolliffe Island, all waters extending from the shore of Ndilǫ both on Back Bay and Yellowknife Bay, and the entire eastern side of Yellowknife Bay down to Dettah.
A map published by the Yellowknives Dene First Nation in September 2020 indicates what it considers to be a “prohibited area” for houseboats.
Traditionally, houseboats on Yellowknife Bay have moored outside the area shown on the First Nation’s map, such as off the western shore of Jolliffe Island.
In a short statement, the First Nation said “acts of unauthorized occupancy” by houseboaters were “disrespectful to … a sovereign nation who have occupied and used the area since time immemorial.”
Jason Snaggs, chief executive of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, told Cabin Radio: “We have noticed, within the last two years, a few people finding their way along the Dettah Road shore. We have one houseboater that parks on the Dettah Road almost permanently to get access to his houseboat, next to one of our islands.
“Now we have two or three on our side of the lake and two abandoned barges as well. The people have said this is a major disrespect to the Yellowknives Dene First Nation and their land and water.
“There are a few people who are not aware of the historical significance of this side of the lake. We hope they recognize that they need to unmoor their houseboats.”
Snaggs said the issue had occurred on occasion in the past. This time, members of the First Nation have visited the houseboats in question but “unfortunately, the individuals were not there,” he said.
The First Nation plans to return and issue formal notices to those houseboaters, requesting that they leave. Snaggs said the First Nation would, if necessary, work with the territorial and federal governments to have the barges towed outside its waters.
“We intend to take whatever legal as well as other action we can to ensure these houseboaters unmoor their boats and move out of the area,” said Snaggs.
Jolliffe Island question
The First Nation’s statement said houseboats in the region highlighted on the map were infringing upon the protected Aboriginal rights of members of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, also known as YKDFN.
“We take this opportunity to specifically inform and give general notice to existing and potential houseboaters with the intention to anchor on our side of the bay that YKDFN will not tolerate any unauthorized occupancy, both on our lands and waters,” the statement concluded.
“We will continue to assert our treaty rights and sovereignty as long as the sun shines, the river flows, and the grass grows.”
The City of Yellowknife and Yellowknives Dene First Nation have since last year been preparing for a boundary change that will move Ndilǫ and Jolliffe Island from the city to the First Nation’s jurisdiction.
Snaggs said the new boundary was in the process of being finalized. It’s not clear how that transfer might affect the right of houseboaters to moor off the island’s western shore, where many are currently located.
“We will be working in collaboration with the city and the GNWT with respect to those boaters,” said Snaggs.
“Right now, the immediate concern is with respect to those folks who are currently infringing into YKDFN waters.
“We will be having discussions with the city and those individuals around Jolliffe Island to ensure … the traditional knowledge and ecological footprint there is not disturbed by houseboaters currently moored on the shore.”
Sarah Pruys contributed reporting.