Hon. Margaret Dawn Anderson: Drin Gwiinzii, honourable senators.
It is my privilege to rise today to congratulate the Gwich’in of Aklavik, Inuvik, Teetl’it Zheh and Tsiigehtchic on the thirtieth anniversary of the Gwich’in Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement.
The agreement, signed on April 22, 1992, granted the Gwich’in ownership of 22,330 square kilometres of land in the Northwest Territories and 1,554 square kilometres of land in the Yukon, including the subsurface rights to 6,158 square kilometres of land in the Northwest Territories. The agreement also secured the Gwich’in economic benefits, the exclusive rights to be licensed to conduct commercial wildlife activities on Gwich’in lands and formalized Gwich’in participation in land‑use planning and the management of renewable resources, land, water and heritage resources. This included a commitment to negotiate self-government.
Since receiving the original $75 million of capital transfers between 1992 and 2007 secured through the land claim agreement, the Gwich’in have increased these funds to over $165 million while supporting their people and communities.
The recognition and affirmation of Gwich’in rights secured through the land claim agreement have also supported Gwich’in initiatives around conservation and sustainability. For example, the Gwich’in have been able to maintain the Porcupine Caribou Herd as one of the largest and healthiest international barren-land caribou herds in the world — a critical and vital resource for the Gwich’in.
Over the last 30 years, the Gwich’in have, through their Department of Cultural Heritage, been working to preserve culture, language and traditional knowledge for future generations as well as develop programs appropriate for Gwich’in needs. Some examples of their work include recording the life stories of many Gwich’in elders and collaborating on second-language curriculum for kindergarten to Grade 12 students in the Beaufort Delta Region.
Finally, the move toward Dinjii Zhuh government will ensure the Gwich’in can continue to undertake occupancy and harvesting activities for generations to come while blending their historic leadership structures with contemporary forms of governance.
I wish to congratulate the Gwich’in and their communities and organizations on their achievements over the past 30 years. I know the Gwich’in Tribal Council will continue to prioritize their people, communities, culture, spirituality, language and values as they move toward Dinjii Zhuh government. It is indeed time to define “Your future, your way.”
Mahsi’cho, quyannaini. Thank you