Chapter 5 – Yukon Indigenous Peoples and Governance

A Different Path Towards Self-Determination

Not every First Nation citizen or community agreed with the shift away from the Indian Act to the Self-Government Agreements: self-government is by its very nature controversial and political. Each First Nation held a ratification vote in which each member had to decide whether to become a self-governing First Nation or to remain an Indian Act band. There were people who voted no to Land Claims and Self-Government but, in the cases of Yukon First Nations who have signed their agreements, the majority of citizens in each First Nation voted yes to moving towards self-government under the UFA (Canada 1993).

There are three Yukon First Nations who have not currently settled land claims under the UFA and remain Indian bands under the federal Indian Act: Liard First Nation, Ross River Dena Council, and White River First Nation. They themselves, and other Yukon First Nations, still consider them to be self-determining, although they are following a different path (see section A Dynamic Future, Figure 5.3). Each of these First Nations have very specific reasons for not signing an individual Final Agreement under the UFA. For instance, according to interviews with Kaska Elders and leaders (Liard First Nation and Ross River Dena Council), Alcantara states that the Kaska-Dena did not agree with specific provisions within the UFA including the “permanent sharing or surrendering of any of their traditional lands” (2013: 98). They also did not support the requirement to repay comprehensive land claim negotiation loans, nor did they agree with the amount of land quantum they were to get through the UFA (Alcantara 2013: 100). White River First Nation as well, had its own reasons for not moving forward under the UFA.[1] As former Chief Charles Eikland Jr. stated, “If we thought it (UFA) was good for us, we would have signed… The problem with those claims is that when you’re negotiating, they claim it’s flexible and can be worked with but when you get down to dealing with issues, they remain rigid and don’t flex” (Eikland Jr. in Stasyszyn 2012). Thus, in these instances, Crown-Indigenous Relations (CIRNAC) and Indigenous Services Canada (ISC),[2] the former which implements the Indian Act, still follow a mandate of intervening in a wide variety of issues related to First Nations and other Indigenous groups in Canada, including the ability to make sweeping policy decisions such as determining who is considered an Indian, and managing Indian lands, resources, and finances.

  1. For a discussion of the complexities of Indigenous politics and governance in Yukon see Lianne Charlie’s article: Modern Treaty Politics in the Yukon (2017).
  2. INAC used to refer to Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. In 2011, the name became AANDC, which stood for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. In 2016, it reverted to INAC, but with new meaning—Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. Today INAC has been dissolved and two departments have been created instead, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC).


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ECHO: Ethnographic, Cultural and Historical Overview of Yukon's First Peoples Copyright © 2020 by Victoria Elena Castillo; Christine Schreyer; and Tosh Southwick is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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