Tr’ondek Hwech’in chief vows to fight placer claims on settlement land

A pair of Dawson City miners want to dig for gold on settlement land of the Tr’ondek Hwech’in First Nation, land that's home to around 40 families.

Updated:

A pair of Dawson City miners want to dig for gold on settlement land of the Tr’ondek Hwech’in First Nation, land that’s home to around 40 families.

Michel Vincent and Micheal Heydorf are asking the Yukon Surface Rights Board to order the First Nation remove all buildings, sewer, water and power lines from the land in the Tr’ondek subdivision in Dawson.

For now the board says the application is incomplete. The miners will have 60 days to provide more information before the board decides whether to hear the case.

The surface rights board was set up mainly to deal with disputes over accessing or using Yukon First Nation settlement land.

At the centre of the dispute is settlement land obtained as part of the First Nation’s final agreement with the Yukon government. The Tr’ondek Hwech’in chief says she has no intention of going anywhere.

“We’re not moving off our land and (TH citizens) have nothing to worry about,” Roberta Joseph told the News Friday

In their submission, Vincent and Heydorf say as the owners of the eight claims in question they have the right to mine there. They gave the First Nation a July 15 deadline to clear off.

Since the deadline “Tr’ondek Hwech’in has been occupying (the land) unlawfully,” according to their application to the board.

“We believe that Tr’ondek Hwech’in has no special right based on their Class B land claim to dictate anything concerning what we may do on our aforementioned claims,” the document says.

Neither miner could be reached for comment.

The First Nation, not surprisingly, sees things differently.

“We gave up a lot for the small amount of land that we have in our traditional territory,” Joseph said. “As part of giving that up, it is the responsibility of the other governments to ensure that they dealt with (land conflicts) prior to signing the agreement.”

The claims were staked between 1975 and 1989, more than a decade before the First Nation signed its final agreement.

The dispute over this piece of land dates back to at least 2002. Surface rights board documents from that year suggest the First Nation offered Vincent $10,000 for the eight claims. Vincent wanted $10,000 per claim.

The board’s executive director, Ian Pumphrey, said the 2002 dispute was set to be heard by a panel, but both sides agreed to put the process on hold to negotiate. Eventually the file was closed, he said.

In a July letter included as part of the application, the First Nation’s lawyer Daryn Leas suggests it would cost the miners a pretty penny if they did go ahead with mining.

Under the Yukon’s Placer Act the First Nation “will seek adequate security and full compensation from any person who intends to undertake mining activities on … any parcel of its settlement land,” the letter says.

Leas doesn’t say how much money that would be, other than to say it is “significant” considering what the land is being used for now. A press release from the First Nation says it “has invested several million dollars in planning, development, and construction of the subdivision that nearly forty families call home.”

It’s not just the First Nation that owns infrastructure on the land, Leas writes. Northwestel, Yukon Energy, the Yukon government and the City of Dawson all have assets there, the letter says.

Joseph said the conflict is proof the territory’s mining legislation needs to be updated.

“It’s outdated and it needs to be updated to be consistent with our final agreements here in the Yukon as well as modern situations that we have in the Yukon,” she said.

If Vincent and Heydorf are able to update their application to the board’s standard, the conflict could eventually be heard by a panel of adjudicators.

Joseph said the First Nation is prepared to fight if it comes to that.

“We have an obligation to our citizens to protect our land, to protect our aboriginal rights and that’s what we’ll have to do.”

Contact ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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

Just Posted

During our recent conversation, John Nicholson showed me snapshots of his time working on the Yukon riverboats 70 years ago. (Michael Gates)
History Hunter: Yukon man relives the riverboat days after seven decades

John Nicholson took summer work on Yukon steamers in the 1950s

A city map shows the property at 107 Range Road. The zoning is now in place for developers to proceed with plans for a Dairy Queen drive-thru. If plans proceed on schedule the new restaurant is anticipated to open in October. (Cyrstal Schick/Yukon News)
October opening eyed for Dairy Queen

Will depend on everything going according to plan

NDP candidate Annie Blake, left, and Liberal incumbent Pauline Frost. (Submitted photos)
Official recount confirms tie vote in Vuntut Gwitchin riding

Both candidates Pauline Frost and Annie Blake are still standing with 78 votes each

Artist’s rendering of a Dairy Queen drive-thru. At its April 13 meeting, Whitehorse city council approved a zoning change to allow a drive-thru at 107 Range Road. Developers sought the change to build a Dairy Queen there. (Submitted)
Drive-thru approved by Whitehorse city council at 107 Range Road

Rezoning could pave the way for a Dairy Queen

xx
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for April 14, 2021.… Continue reading

Joel Krahn/joelkran.com Hikers traverse the Chilkoot Trail in September 2015. Alaska side.
The Canadian side of the Chilkoot Trail will open for summer

The Canadian side of the Chilkoot Trail will open for summer Parks… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

A look at city council matters for the week of April 12

École Whitehorse Elementary Grade 7 students Yumi Traynor and Oscar Wolosewich participated in the Civix Student Vote in Whitehorse on April 12. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Yukon Student Vote chooses Yukon Party government; NDP take popular vote

The initiative is organized by national non-profit CIVIX

Yvonne Clarke is the newly elected Yukon Party MLA for Porter Creek Centre. (Submitted/Yukon Party)
Yvonne Clarke elected as first Filipina MLA in the Yukon Legislative Assembly

Clarke beat incumbent Liberal Paolo Gallina in Porter Creek Centre

Emily Tredger at NDP election night headquarters after winning the Whitehorse Centre riding. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Emily Tredger takes Whitehorse Centre for NDP

MLA-elect ready to get to work in new role

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Two new cases of COVID-19 variant identified in territory

“If variants were to get out of control in the Yukon, the impact could be serious.”

lwtters
Today’s Mailbox: Rent freezes and the youth vote

Dear Editor, I read the article regarding the recommendations by the Yukon… Continue reading

Point-in-Time homeless count planned this month

Volunteers will count those in shelters, short-term housing and without shelter in a 24-hour period.

Most Read