The annual General Assembly of the Vuntut Gwitchin was held on the banks of the Porcupine River at our traditional gathering place Tlo-Kut, upstream of Old Crow.
Key themes addressed at the assembly included:
A detailed overview of the progress made by the Vuntut Gwitchin Government during the past year was provided by Chief Linklater, Deputy Chief Roger Kyikavichik and Councilors William Josie, Glenna Tetlichi and Esau Schafer.
- Progress in the development of Vuntut self-governance - including the establishment of the Vuntut Gwitchin Trust to provide oversight of the financial and other assets of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and measures to ensure transparency and accountability;
- Continued steps to strengthen intergovernmental working relations, particularly with the Yukon Government, to build on earlier successes in the areas of management of natural resources, economic development and education programs;
- Report by the Vuntut Development Corporation on current business ventures and future plans;
- Future review of the implementation of the Final and Self Government Agreements, which will lead to the 10 year renegotiation of the Vuntut Gwitchin Financial Transfer Agreement with Canada;
- Establishing a community vision for the administration of justice by the First Nation; and
- A 5 year strategic plan to address the critical issues related to the adequacy of housing in Old Crow.
Chief Linklater reported on progress made under the longstanding Vuntut Gwitchin Yukon Intergovernmental Relations Accord, noting that this led to the joint approval of the plan for multi-year capital construction projects in Old Crow.
He also reported on a new Northern Yukon Economic Development Partnership Agreement between the Vuntut Gwitchin, Tr'ondek Hwech'in, Nacho Nyak Dun and Yukon Governments, which will deal with regional and local economic development in the northern half of Yukon. A Consultation Protocol has also been reached between the Vuntut Gwitchin and Yukon governments to formalize their consultation process. In addition, a more general governance understanding is being developed by Yukon First Nations and Yukon to provide territorial wide coordination of government programs by these two orders of government. Chief Linklater stated: "Effective working relationships with other governments, including First Nations, are essential to achieve our governance and socio-economic objectives in North Yukon. We have achieved benefits by practicing this positive and collaborative approach to governance and intend to not only carry on with this approach, but to expand such arrangements as opportunities arise."
The Leadership discussed their approach to integrated program delivery, which takes advantage of the increased benefits that can be gained from integrating the complementary features of related programs. One example was the collaborative planning with Yukon that resulted in an agreement to construct a number of capital infrastructure projects in Old Crow during the next 3 to 5 years. The construction of these projects is being carefully planned to achieve economies of scale, while taking advantage of related trades-training, employment and business opportunities - which in turn support the community's social objectives.
Specifically, the results this year have been: several initial projects are well underway; there is close to full employment in Old Crow this spring, summer and fall; trades training is continuing for a number of residents, who are also being employed; and, Porcupine Enterprises (51% owned by the Vuntut Development Corporation) is the primary contractor for the projects launched to date, with other local enterprises also benefiting directly from these construction projects.
The President of the Vuntut Development Corporation, Stephen Mills, provided a thorough briefing on their progress and plans that include investments in Air North, real estate, construction and development companies. The General Assembly was very pleased with the development and successes of the Corporation and provided support for the future opportunities that were discussed. Elders noted that, although there is a need to approach development in the traditional territory with caution, the Vuntut Gwitchin must also acknowledge the need for changes within their traditional territory.
As in previous years, the Vuntut Gwitchin re-affirmed their commitment to carry on their concerted efforts to protect the calving grounds of the Porcupine Caribou Herd in Alaska, and to encourage others to do the same.