Urban members of Fond Du Lac, Black Lake and Hatchet Lake Denesuline First Nations are getting updated this week on the North of 60 Final Agreement.

The agreement, also being called a new treaty, has been in the works for over 20 years. It would give band members the rights to the land which their ancestors and relatives lived on. The 400-page agreement outlines policies where members would have the right to use the land and would give them a say on what takes place in the area. It also outlines a financial compensation requirement, which the negotiation team has said will go in a trust.

The approximately 160,000 square kilometres of land, called Nuhenéné, is located in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, beginning on the Saskatchewan and Manitoba borders.

Ron Robillard, lead negotiator for the agreement, told urban members in La Ronge why his team wants the treaty during a meeting Monday night. 

“We could see a spot where our people used to gather—this is like 2000 years old—on the rock, there’s people that must have gathered there making arrowheads and there is white all around the rock,” he said. “It was really amazing…So, we want to protect those.”

Robillard also explained that if any proposals for land use are brought forward, members will be able to approve or deny them with the new agreement.

“If you think it’s going to ruin your land or your water, you have the right to say no. Those are the kind of rights that will be recognized in here too.”

Robillard finished his presentation by updating members. He explained the written agreement is almost finished, so the team will soon be taking it to the federal government to negotiate any changes that might be required. Then, members will vote on it.

“So when that day comes, if you like what’s in the 400 pages and if you think it’s good for your people (and) your future generations like your children (and) grandchildren, if you think that’s going to protect our rights, then you will vote ‘yes,’” Robillard said. “And if you’re not happy about it, then you vote ‘no.’ That’s basically how it is.”

The negotiation team will travel to Saskatoon Wednesday and then to Prince Albert Thursday to give urban members in these cities an update on the agreement.

Robillard said if members are looking for more information or have questions, they can visit the team’s website.

(PHOTO: Ron Robillard told members during the meeting at the Legion Hall in La Ronge that he’s excited to see the agreement close to completion. Photograph taken by Sam Campling.)