The Kaska Dena Council is asking the federal government for a $1.5-billion settlement and political control over 240,000 square kilometres of its traditional territory in a potential land claim.
The claims were outlined in a letter, first reported by CBC, sent by the Kaska Dena Council in April to Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett and federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson–Raybould.
Bennett’s office confirmed it has received the proposal and are currently reviewing it.
There was no indication of how the Kaska Dena Council determined the sum of $1.5 billion — which is to be transferred “as a one-time lump sum” — or what it would be used for.
The money would be divided equally between Liard First Nation, Ross River Dena Council, and the Kaska Dena Council, which represents the two mentioned First Nations and three more in B.C.
However, both Chief George Morgan of the Liard First Nation and Chief Jack Caesar of Ross River Dena Council were unaware of the proposed settlement.
Morgan, who was elected earlier this month, said he and his council were disappointed they weren’t consulted, especially considering the gravity of any agreement regarding Indigenous title.
“We have no idea what the previous chief and council were aware of or involved in. They were working with the Dena Council but it’s hard to say what they knew about this,” he told the News.
Jack Caesar hopes his community will have more answers next week, adding they were surprised when they heard the news on CBC. “Our community needs to be consulted on this,” he said.
The proposal “should not be understood to mean that the Kaska Dena Council will represent all Kaska for the purposes of negotiations,” wrote George Miller, chair of the Kaska Dena Council.
The letter included a map of the area the Kaska Dena Council claims as its traditional territory. It includes 23 per cent of Yukon, 10 per cent of British Columbia, and a portion of the Northwest Territories. The N.W.T. section overlaps portions of asserted territory of the Dehcho First Nations and the Sahtu settlement area.
The proposal calls on the federal government to recognize Kaska sovereignty and political control over the area and to ensure that the Yukon government “will not have administration and control over the Kaska territory.” Additionally, a $50-million annual payment is to be made “in perpetuity to a Kaska entity, to be designated by the Kaska.”
Only three First Nations in Yukon have not negotiated land claim agreements – the Ross River Dena Council, the Liard First Nation and the White River First Nation, based in Beaver Creek, which is not included in this letter. The letter comes after a recent court case between Ross River Dena Council and the federal government indicated that the government is open to negotiating outside of the Yukon’s Umbrella Final Agreement (UFA).
If the federal government accepts the terms of the Framework Agreement, it would be by far the largest financial settlement between Canada and an Indigenous group. The 13 signatories in of the 1990 UFA, received a total of $242.67 million. The only other agreement over a billion dollars is the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement at $1.14 billion, which was distributed over 14 years.
Only Miller signed the letter. He declined to comment.
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