T'licho Recognition Day
During the first week of August, I was privileged to attend a momentous event in the history of our country. On August 4th, the T’licho Land Claim and Self Government Agreement came into force and a new government for the T’licho People was created. It was both a solemn and a joyous occasion. In the days leading up to Recognition Day – so called because it was the day Canada recognized the T’licho’s inherent right to self-government – there were feasts and fireworks and dances and even several weddings. People came from all the T’licho communities by road and by air and even canoe to Rae for these important events.
On the day itself, the new T’licho government – which had been elected some weeks before -- was sworn in. The ceremony took place in both English and the T’licho language. Grand Chief Joe Rabesca, who had led the T’licho in the years of negotiations, took charge of the government as the interim leader. He surprised many people by announcing that he felt his work was now done and he would not run in the upcoming election. So a new Grand Chief, George Mackenzie, was elected on September 1 to lead the T’licho government as they begin to deal with the many issues facing their people.
I am pleased to tell you that the sky did not fall and that the world was not turned upside down. If you saw the calm and business-like way the new government began their deliberations and passed their first laws, you would know that there is nothing frightening about aboriginal self-government. It is as natural and normal as breathing.
The day ended with children singing “O Canada” in the T’licho language and speeches – of course – from Federal, territorial and T’licho politicians. The final event – before the partying began – was the raising of a beautiful new T’licho flag on the banks of Great Slave Lake. With the water and the land and the sky as backdrop and the sound of drums echoing, it was a perfect northern moment.
Senator Nick Sibbeston
What it meant to me
August 4, 2005, will be remembered as a beautiful day of celebration for the Tlicho people as they marked the effective date of the Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act.
It was very exciting and, at the same time, emotional to witness the conclusion of the Dogrib Treaty 11 Council and then, moments later, witness the beginning of the Tlicho Government.
There were so many people there - federal Ministers and Members of Parliament, our Senator, the Premier and members of his Cabinet and Legislative Assembly and Aboriginal leaders from the territory all joined a sea of community members to commemorate this important day.
To sum up the feeling of the day in a few words is a challenge, but, I will say that the day was without a doubt, beautiful, heartwarming and left me with an overwhelming sense of pride in the Tlicho people’s accomplishment. This is so good. Good for the community, good for the children, good for the North and good for Canada.
My most sincere congratulations again to the Tlicho people.
Un nouveau contrat social
Le 4 août dernier j'étais de ceux qui ont eu le privilège de partager avec le peuple Tlitcho la mise en ouvre de son autonomie gouvernementale. Les membres des quatre communautés étaient réunis à Rae (TNO), maintenant appelé Behchoko, pour célébrer cet important passage.
J'ai vu, dans les yeux du Grand Chef Joe Rabesca, cette lueur de fierté, que j'ai d'ailleurs saisie, à maintes reprises dans ceux de plusieurs chefs autochtones québécois, comme négociateur des Premiers peuples, face à la réalisation d'un nouveau contrat social pour eux qui aura pris 10 ans de négociation entre la Première Nation de Tlitcho, le gouvernement des Territoires du Nord-Ouest et le gouvernement du Canada.
Longue vie au peuple Tlitcho !
Bernard Cleary, M.P.
A new day in the North
I happily accepted the invitation to the celebrations for the Tlicho people in early August. It was indeed an honour to attend the opening of the Tlicho legislative assembly and share in the evolving history of a proud and generous people. The culmination of years of work and dreams were being realized and it was evident that meticulous planning had gone into the marking of this achievement.
People gathered from the four communities in Rae (Behchoko) and well wishers came from near and far to bring their best wishes and congratulations. Every effort had been made to include the youngest to oldest members of the community and representatives from all levels of government were in attendance.
The federal government was represented by the Hon. Ethel Blondin-Andrew, the Hon. Lucienne Robillard, the Hon. Nick Sibbiston and Mr. Bernard Cleary – an opposition member from Quebec. As Parliamentary Secretary, I had the role of guiding the federal legislation through the parliament in Ottawa and I wish to express both my gratitude and satisfaction in being a part of this historic process to the people who will now take the treaty and make their future a better reality within Canada.
I was given the honour of addressing those who had paddled from the three outlying communities before their final leg across the Great Slave Lake. They knew the sense of occasion as they paddled in the path of their ancestors.
The ensuing ceremonies included the last and first assemblies of the old and new governments, the new flag raising, generous feasts and dances, and tributes to those who had worked and had passed on before realizing this wonderful new world of self government. All was fitting acknowledgment of the culture, spirit, and fortitude of the Tlicho people.
A new day has begun in the north. The festive atmosphere from those August days in 2005 will now give way to the reality of continuing hard work to implement the vision of the Tlicho. Congratulations and Marci Cho.
The Hon. Sue Barnes, P.C., M.P.
Ruth Rathwell Raising the Tlicho Flag
Genvieve Brisson Tlicho Youth
NWT Premier Joe Handley addresses gathering
Grand Chief Joe Rabesca and MP Bernard Cleary
MPs Sue Barnes and Bernard Cleary