Introduction to Land Claims and Self-Government Agreements
In a letter dated January 13, 1902, T.W. Jackson wrote a letter on behalf of Hereditary Chief Jim Boss of Lake Laberge in which he requests the Federal Government to begin treaty or land claim settlement discussions with the Yukon First Nations. This was done in order to protect his people who were already suffering from the overwhelming numbers of non-natives who had moved into the territory. At this time, Ottawa's only reply was that the RCMP would take care of the Indians and not let them starve.
In the mid-1960s, Yukon First Nations people formed the Klondike Indian Association, Yukon Indian Advancement Association, Yukon Native Brotherhood and Yukon Association of Non Status Indians, then finally the Council for Yukon Indians or Council of Yukon First Nations.
In October 1968, Elijah Smith, who had been elected Chief of the Whitehorse Indian Band, made a powerful statement at a Department of Indian Affairs sponsored meeting regarding the Indian Act: He stated that the most important issue to be considered was not proposed changes to the Indian Act, but the need for Government to settle Yukon Indian Land Claims and rights: He stated:
"We, the Indians of the Yukon, object to being treated like squatters in our own country. We accepted the white man in this country, fed him, looked after him when he was sick, showed him the way of the North, helped him to find the gold, helped him build, and respected him in his own rights. For this we have received little in return. We feel the people of the North owe us a great deal and would like the Government of Canada to see that we get a fair settlement for the use of the land. There was no treaty signed in this country, and they tell me the land still belongs to the Indians. There was no battle fought between the whites and the Indians for this land."
From its beginning, the Yukon Native Brotherhood had three goals:
- To oppose the 1969 White Paper policy statement: Statement of the Government of Canada on Indian Policy
- To increase the ability of the Yukon Indian Bands to manage programs that were still being run by the Department of Indian Affairs
- Yukon Native Brotherhoods chief goal was pressing comprehensive claims of the Yukon First Nations
In January 1973, Yukon Native Brotherhood published the document Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow: A Statement of Grievances and an Approach to Settlement by the Yukon Indian People. The Yukon Native Brotherhood prepared this document as the basis for the land claim.
The document presents a historical and descriptive account of the key settlement issues.
In February 1980 a special Tri-General Assembly of the Council for Yukon Indians, Yukon Native Brotherhood and Yukon Association of Non-Status Indians.