The Kátł’odeeche First Nation (KFN) is the first group in the Northwest Territories to adopt a land rights allowing it to effectively manage its own lands and resources, Chief April Martel said on Wednesday.
The land law gives the PNK the power to make decisions about its land, resources and economic development, which Martel says is an important step.
“It opens the door to where we want to go and what we want to develop in the Kátł’odeeche reserve,” she said.
Out of 497 eligible voters, 153 voted. Of these, 144 people voted in favor of the land law. There were eight negative votes and one invalid ballot.
Just over 30 percent of eligible voters voted. Only 20 percent had to vote for the law to pass, provided more than half of the votes were in favor.
KFN is the 97th First Nations group to pass land law across Canada, according to Martel.
Previously, First Nation lands and resources were governed by the Indian Act, which meant that funding for the KFN was administered by the government.
KFN will now directly receive and administer the funds required for land management. Development of the KFN land code website states that it “will allow more timely and efficient land management decisions to be made at the local level”.
The next step will be a transition period during which responsibilities – and obligations – will be transferred to KFN.
Martel says there are already ideas for change on the reserve.
“There is a plan to move everything forward and for all areas of the Kátł’odeeche reserve,” she said.
Martel said the PNK must now pass laws relating to transferred powers, which may require a new committee.
Martel said the change 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 PNK “seized it and typed it” to have the agreement signed after more than 10 months of waiting.
“I want to thank the Elders who created this reserve,” she said.
“They are looking forward to the future of their young people.”