Justice for Teslin Tlingit

The new administration of justice agreement gives the Teslin Tlingit Council more credibility, says Victoria Fred, a local aboriginal lawyer who helped negotiate the deal. “It gives credence to the recognition of Teslin Tlingit authority,” said Fred.

The new administration of justice agreement gives the Teslin Tlingit Council more credibility, says Victoria Fred, a local aboriginal lawyer who helped negotiate the deal.

“It gives credence to the recognition of Teslin Tlingit authority,” said Fred. “Equally as important, it provides greater access to justice for Teslin Tlingit citizens.”

All Yukon self-government agreements allow First Nation governments to make laws.

They also outline the intent to eventually sign an administration of justice agreement, but Teslin is the first to do it.

They have been working on it since 1995.

The agreement not only gives the First Nation the ability to enforce its own laws, but permits it to set up a court system.

Teslin’s own Peacemaker Court is expected to be up and running within four years.

It is hoped this court can resolve conflict in ways more conducive to Teslin Tlingit culture, said Fred.

“The mainstream system is pretty linear in thinking,” said Georgina Sydney, another Teslin negotiator. “You break the law, you go to court. Then you go to jail or pay a fine. But with the Teslin Tlingit justice system, we look at it holistically. When someone breaks the law, we look at, ‘Why did they do it? What happened? What’s making them misbehave?’ And then we address the issue.”

The approach respects the culture of family and community and that will lead to the end of conflicts being ignored or escalated by the public system – while still not getting resolved, said Fred.

But this won’t result in people getting “off the hook,” both women agreed. If anything, it means the exact opposite.

“It’s escapism for our citizens to have their case heard downtown because they’re not being judged by their peers,” said Fred. “There is not the same level of expectation to succeed when you’re not being judged by your peers or when your family’s not sitting there. With the clan system, it’s raising the bar.”

There are five clans in the matriarchal, Teslin Tlingit culture: the raven child, frog, wolf, split-tail beaver and eagle. And when you are a part of a clan, anything and everything you do is reflected in the reputation of the entire clan, said Sydney. “Your clan is held responsible. That’s how we keep things balanced.”

This agreement signifies Teslin Tligit people working with their own people and their own laws, with their own resources on their own land, said Fred.

When asked whether or not this would only strengthen divisions between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people in the territory, Sydney interrupted.

“It’s not creating a nation within a nation,” she said. “It’s recognizing a nation that was already there.”

And when people make comments like ‘this will only further separate us,’ they expose their lack of awareness to the statistics and the oppression aboriginal people face in mainstream systems, said Fred.

“Sometimes we have to separate ourselves in order for us to maintain the integrity of who we are as a people so that we can more effectively deal with the issues,” she said. “Clearly we see that the mainstream system isn’t doing it for us, so we’ve taken it upon ourselves to correct it. That’s called self-accountability. That’s what self-determination is about.”

Sydney has wanted something like this to happen in her community ever since she was young. Now that it’s getting in place, she feels better about the future, she said.

“I feel comfortable that my grandchildren and their grandchildren are going to be taken care of, as well as the land and the wildlife,” she said, adding they won’t have to live through the oppression she has.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at roxannes@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley, speak during a live stream in Whitehorse on January 20, about the new swish and gargle COVID-19 tests. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Swish and spit COVID-19 test now available in Yukon

Vaccination efforts continue in Whitehorse and smaller communities in the territory

Local poet Joanna Lilley is photographed at the Beringia Centre in Whitehorse on Jan. 20, where she will be hosting a poetry workshop on Jan. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Poetry for the ages

Workshop set for the Yukon Beringia Centre

President Joe Biden signs executive orders after speaking about the coronavirus, accompanied by Vice President Kamala Harris in the State Dinning Room of the White House on Jan. 21, in Washington, D.C. The administration announced plans Jan. 20 for a temporary moratorium on oil and gas leasing in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge after the Trump administration issued leases in a part of the refuge considered sacred by the Gwich’in. (Alex Brandon/AP)
U.S. President Joe Biden halts oil and gas lease sales in ANWR

“Its great to have an ally in the White House”


Wyatt’s World for Jan. 22, 2021

Children’s performer Claire Ness poses for a photo for the upcoming annual Pivot Festival. “Claire Ness Morning” will be a kid-friendly performance streamed on the morning of Jan. 30. (Photo courtesy Erik Pinkerton Photography)
Pivot Festival provides ‘delight and light’ to a pandemic January

The festival runs Jan. 20 to 30 with virtual and physically distant events

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. While Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis is now setting his sights on the upcoming territorial election, other members of council are still pondering their election plans for the coming year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillors undecided on election plans

Municipal vote set for Oct. 21

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decicions made by Whitehorse city council this week.

A file photo of grizzly bear along the highway outside Dawson City. Yukon conservation officers euthanized a grizzly bear Jan. 15 that was originally sighted near Braeburn. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon News file)
Male grizzly euthanized near Braeburn

Yukon conservation officers have euthanized a grizzly bear that was originally sighted… Continue reading

Mayor Dan Curtis listens to a councillor on the phone during a city council meeting in Whitehorse on April 14, 2020. Curtis announced Jan. 14 that he intends to seek nomination to be the Yukon Liberal candidate for Whitehorse Centre in the 2021 territorial election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Whitehorse mayor seeking nomination for territorial election

Whitehorse mayor Dan Curtis is preparing for a run in the upcoming… Continue reading

Gerard Redinger was charged under the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> with failing to self-isolate and failing to transit through the Yukon in under 24 hours. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Man ticketed $1,150 at Wolf Creek campground for failing to self-isolate

Gerard Redinger signed a 24-hour transit declaration, ticketed 13 days later

Yukon Energy, Solvest Inc. and Chu Níikwän Development Corporation are calling on the city for a meeting to look at possibilities for separate tax rates or incentives for renewable energy projects. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Tax changes sought for Whitehorse energy projects

Delegates call for separate property tax category for renewable energy projects

Yukon University has added seven members to its board of governors in recent months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New members named to Yukon U’s board of governors

Required number of board members now up to 17

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your Northern regulatory adventure awaits!

“Your Northern adventure awaits!” blared the headline on a recent YESAB assessment… Continue reading

Most Read