We view the land claims process as regaining what was lost to us; a land we had lived on since time began.
In 1973, a delegation of Yukon Chiefs and leaders travelled to Ottawa to present Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau with a statement of claim,Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow. Trudeau accepted this historic document as the basis for a Yukon land claim. It would be 25 years before the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in signed the final agreement that settled our claim and we gained formal recognition as a self-governing First Nation.
As part of this process, our people worked hard to reconnect with our language, our culture and our land. In negotiating over the years with federal and territorial governments, we developed a strong voice and a clearer understanding of who we are and what we were fighting for. Above all we wanted certainty of tenure to our lands and a strong voice in managing them for future generations.
Umbrella Final Agreement
“It is extremely important for Yukon citizens, both First Nations people and others, to understand the Umbrella Final Agreement. Although the UFA is meant to give meaning and direction for the future of Yukon First Nations, elements of it touch the lives of all Yukon citizens.”
From: Understanding the Yukon Umbrella Final Agreement: A Land Claim Settlement Information Package, Fourth Edition.
In 2013, First Nations from all over the Yukon celebrated the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Umbrella Final Agreement. Why is this document so significant and why does it mean so much to our people?
This document is not a legally-binding agreement but rather a framework that underlies the self-government agreements of the 11 Yukon First Nations that have signed final agreements. It covers important topics such as self-government, land tenure and management, heritage, the management of renewable and non-renewable resources, and financial compensation. It also sets out processes for resolving disputes and ensuring that the Yukon’s First Nations have a strong advisory role on boards, committees and tribunals to ensure joint management in areas affecting their interests. The final agreements for individual First Nations are based on this template with specific clauses related to their own territories and interests.
Angie Joseph-Rear speaking at the signing of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Final and Self-Government Agreements at Moosehide in 1998.
Chief Steve Taylor and Yukon Premier Piers McDonald at the signing ceremonies, 1998.
The Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in celebrated the ratification of its land claim during a ceremony at the 1998 Moosehide Gathering. Representatives of all three levels of government signed the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Final Agreement and the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Self-Government Agreement.
Today the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in
government has become the town’s major employer and an important economic force in the area. We have passed significant pieces of legislation, allowing us to handle our taxation and take a greater role in education and stewardship of resources within our traditional territory. The First Nation operates several businesses and has invested in others. We work with other levels of government to co-manage places of cultural significance within our traditional territory such as Tombstone Territorial Park.
Our culture thrives. Hän language programs are offered for all levels of education. Three generations comprise the Hän Singers, learning and sharing traditional songs and dances. The Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre is a gateway to the traditional territory and a key place to share culture with visitors and our own citizens. For more details, see the section on RENEWAL.