Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve – Signing of Agreement with Yellowknives Dene First Nation

From: Parks Canada

Backgrounder

Located at the eastern end of Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories, Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve is part of a larger group of existing and proposed protected areas around the East Arm and Artillery Lake regions.

At approximately 14,305 square kilometres, Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve encompasses the Artillery Lake area, a portion of East Arm’s Christie Bay, portions of Eileen and Whitefish lakes, the Lockhart River, most of the Snowdrift River, Tyrell Falls, Reliance, Fort Reliance, and many picturesque bays such as Maufelly, Charlton, and Wildbread.

The lives and cultures of all Indigenous peoples in this region are rooted in the lands and waters of Thaidene Nene. It is a culturally rich area, where Indigenous traditions and harvesting are practiced. It also hosts spiritual areas used by Indigenous peoples for millennia. Local residents and visitors also enjoy the Thaidene Nene area for a variety of recreational and tourist activities and it is internationally known as a fisherman’s paradise.

Indigenous lands

The Akaitcho Dene First Nations include the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, the Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation and the Deninu K’ue First Nation. Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve falls within the traditional territory of the Akaitcho Dene First Nations, closest to the Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation community and including a small portion of Chief Drygeese Territory. The Northwest Territory Métis Nation (Fort Resolution, Fort Smith, Hay River locals) also include Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve within their traditional territory.

The T’li Cho government has a ratified land claim and self-government agreement. Under this land claim, the T’li Cho lands, Mowhi Gogha Dè Nṳtleè, overlap the northern portion of the national park reserve. The North Slave Métis Alliance also assert territory in the area.

National Park Reserve

As a national park reserve, Indigenous people can continue hunting, fishing, trapping, gathering and practicing spiritual activities, and will be involved in cooperative management of a national park reserve with Parks Canada.

Once the land claims are settled and agreements are negotiated that, among other things, address cooperative management, harvesting, cultural and spiritual activities, the national park reserve designation is then brought under the Canada National Parks Act as a national park, assuring that any rights pursuant to the land claims are affirmed and that cooperative management with Indigenous peoples will continue. Until then, a national park reserve is managed like a national park. The area is currently protected under the Canada National Parks Act as a national park reserve.

Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve is adjacent to territorially-protected areas and a proposed wildlife conservation area under the jurisdiction of the Government of the Northwest Territories. The territorial protected and conserved areas are a critical contribution to protecting the biological diversity, watersheds, connectivity for the migration of key species such as caribou, and boreal forest ecosystems as well as cultural landscapes important to Indigenous communities that comprise Thaidene Nene. These areas will be managed as similarly as possible to the national park reserve to protect biodiversity and offer exceptional, interconnected experiences for visitors.

Timeline

The Government of Canada first proposed a national park in the Thaidene Nene area in the late 1960s. At the time, there was insufficient support for the proposal to proceed. However, to leave the option open for a national park in the future, an area of 7,340 km2 was set aside in a land withdrawal under the Territorial Lands Act in 1970.

In the late 1980s, provisions for the establishment of a national park were negotiated as part of the Dene and Métis Comprehensive Land Claim; however, the agreement did not receive final approval. During this period:

· Parks Canada entered into consultations with implicated Dene and Métis;

· A Mineral and Energy Resource Assessment (MERA) was completed for the area covered by the 1970 land withdrawal;

· Parks Canada and the Government of the Northwest Territories solicited public input about the proposal; and

· Parks Canada proposed boundaries for the national park.

In the early 2000s, the proposal for a national park was re-invigorated by Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation who approached the Government of Canada to renew discussions.

Negotiation of an Establishment Agreement for Thaidene Nene began in 2010 between Parks Canada and the Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation, and the concept of the national park reserve was brought forward to the Akaitcho First Nations land claims table. Negotiation of a Land Transfer Agreement between Parks Canada and the Government of the Northwest Territories was initiated in 2016.

In July 2015, a boundary was proposed for a national park reserve in the Thaidene Nene area. Between 2015 and 2017, Parks Canada held public consultations to refine the principles for the establishment of Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve. During this time, consultations with Indigenous governments continued and, in 2018, those consultations with the Yellowknives Dene First Nation demonstrated a need for an establishment agreement. Negotiations on an establishment agreement in principle were concluded in August 2019 along with the negotiation of their role in the regional management board. A final agreement with Yellowknives Dene First Nation was reached in 2020.

In April 2019, the Government of Canada introduced amendments to the Canada National Parks Act to take steps to legally establish Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve in the Northwest Territories. These were given Royal Assent on June 20, 2019, and came into force following the transfer of the land from the Government of the Northwest Territories to Canada for the national park reserve on September 4, 2019.

Agreements

As part of the formal establishment of Thaidene Nene, the following agreements with Parks Canada were signed during community celebrations in Fort Resolution (August 20, 2019) and Łutsël K’é (August 21, 2019):

· Establishment Agreement between the Government of Canada and the Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation

· Impact and Benefit Agreement between the Government of Canada and the Northwest Territory Métis Nation

· Memorandum of Agreement for Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve of Canada between Her Majesty in Right of Canada and the Government of the Northwest Territories (also known as the Land Transfer Agreement)

· Denesoltiné, an Agreement between the Parks Canada Agency and the Deninu K’ue First Nation

· Agreement in Principle between the Government of Canada and the Yellowknives Dene First Nation (in absentia)

On September 25, 2020, the Government of Canada signed the finalized agreement with the Yellowknives Dene First Nation to complete the suite of federal agreements required for Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve — Canada’s 47th national park.

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