As a way of forging connections and honing skills, young Indigenous representatives from communities across Canada participated in a simulated modern treaty negotiation held in Ottawa. Representatives from the Yukon were among those who made the trip.
This was the fifth annual mock treaty negotiation organized by the Gordon Foundation and the Land Claims Agreements Coalition. Last year’s event was held virtually amid the COVID-19 pandemic but this year 30 participants were able to travel to Ottawa. Along with the representatives from the Yukon, they came from British Columbia, Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, Ontario and Quebec.
The youth representatives split into teams representing a fictional First Nation, the Yukon government and the Canadian government. The topic of negotiation between the parties was a wildlife management plan. Each group took two days to form its position before entering negotiations and reaching an agreement.
Among the representatives of the fictitious First Nation was Lenita Alatini, a 21-year-old Kluane First Nation (KFN) citizen who lives in Burwash Landing. Alatini works for the First Nation’s public works and administration department and also serves on its youth council executive team. She said the youth council focuses on holding monthly meetings, coordinates workshops and other educational opportunities for youth and generally tries to be a support system for the community’s young people.
Alatini said the problem that she and the other representatives had in front of them at the mock negotiations in Ottawa dealt with a situation in which the woodland caribou population was threatened and a plan was required to restore it. She said the similarities between the hypothetical scenario and the actual situation near Carcross made the mock negotiations “feel almost real.”
Alatini said she found out about the opportunity to attend the treaty negotiations from KFN’s executive manager and had heard good things about it from other Burwash Landing youth who had gone in past years. Having attended, she described it as an amazing experience for a first timer that left her with a new respect for the people who undertake these kinds of negotiations for real.
She said she learned that when it comes to wildlife management issues “it takes a village” with all parties negotiating constantly.
Alatini said that along with the hands-on learning the simulated negotiations offered, the event also served as a great opportunity to meet people from across the country. She said these connections will be important as she and the rest of the KFN youth council are hoping to visit other youth councils in the future.
The young treaty negotiators benefitted from the guidance and wisdom of treaty experts. The experts at the 2023 conference included Frank Dragon, a negotiator for the Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Che:k’tles7et’h’ First Nations of western Vancouver Island, Robin Bradasch from Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC), as well as Lisa Hutton and Tamara Fast of CIRNAC’s Yukon Branch.
The organizers of the mock treaty negotiations highlighted the efforts of two of the experts, Yukon Umbrella Agreement negotiator Dave Joe and John B. Zoe who worked on the Tłı̨chǫ Agreement, a key land claim in the Northwest Territories. Both experts have lent their knowledge each year since the first mock treaty negotiations were held in 2019.
“Hands-on experiential learning about negotiating a modern treaty leaves a lasting impression and a deeper appreciation of past negotiators. There is no doubt that these simulations leave participants with the re-invigorated determination to see our treaties fully implemented,” said Land Claims Agreement Coalition co-chair Aluki Kotierk.
Contact Jim Elliot at email@example.com