Road to Self-Government

Road to Self-Government

Road to Self-Government
History of Délı̨nę

When the community of Délı̨nę decided to negotiate a self-government agreement, the Délı̨nę Elders agreed that the community should have one government to bring everyone together. This was based in part on the teachings of Prophet Ɂehtseo (Grandfather) Ayah. The Elders believed that too many organizations were responsible for governing the community and that it was not working effectively for the community - a First Nation created by Canada’s Indian Act, the Land Corporation created under the Sahtú Land Claim, and a Charter Community created by the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT). The Elders knew the community could be better governed under one organization. They also wanted to make sure that the new government would have more control over decision making in the community. The community knew that to have this new government, they would have to negotiate with Canada and the GNWT. This vision was supported by the community.

“We are the Sahtúot’ı̨nę, known as the Bear Lake People. We are the descendants of the prophet Eht’se Ayah. We have lived on our land since time immemorial, long before the arrival of Europeans. For all this time our land has been called Délın̨ę and we have been called the Sahtúot’ı̨nę.”

Délı̨nę First Nation Constitution (Délı̨nę Got’ı̨nę Ɂeɂadó) November, 2013

1970 - 1980s

During the 1970s, the Dene Nation began negotiations for a land claim for all Dene regions. At that time, Canada did not recognize that Dene had a right to govern themselves. The Dene Nation disagreed and insisted that their right to self-government existed.


By 1990, Canada agreed to include a chapter in the land claim promising to negotiate self-government after the land claim was signed. The Sahtú then signed its land claim in 1993. In 1995, the community started talks with Canada and the GNWT about self-government to work out the details of what they would negotiate. In 1996, they made an agreement about what they would negotiate and how they would do this, so that the three parties understood what they had to do and what they wanted to achieve. That agreement was called a Process and Schedule Agreement.


Between 1996 and 2003, Délı̨nę, Canada and the GNWT negotiated the Self-Government Agreement-in-Principle. The Agreement–in-Principle, signed in Délı̨nę on August 23, 2003, described the major parts of the self-government agreement: the new government model, its main responsibilities, and how its authorities would work with the authorities of GNWT and Canada. However, it did not include all the details. The Agreement-in-Principle was signed by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs of the GNWT, the Chief of the Délı̨nę Dene Band and the President of the Délı̨nę Land Corporation. This agreement, in effect, represents an important community approval of the Indigenous public government model. Once the Agreement-in-Principle was signed, Délı̨nę, Canada and the GNWT began to negotiate the Final Self-Government Agreement (FSGA). This included discussions about how self-government would be financed, what the parties must do to ensure the agreement will work the way it is supposed to, and how the self-government agreement and the land claim will work together. At that time the Délı̨nę Self-Government Team held a series of workshops whereby community members developed a community constitution. With half of Délı̨nę’s First Nation members and land claim beneficiaries living outside of Délı̨nę, negotiators undertook steps to ensure they were engaged and informed throughout the negotiation process. In 2010, a Yellowknife office was established which was responsible for making sure that Délı̨nę band members and beneficiaries living outside of the community were aware of the agreement and could ask questions and get answers.

December 19, 2013

The Délı̨nę First Nation, Délı̨nę Land Corporation, and the governments of Canada and the Northwest Territories initialled the Délı̨nę Final Self-Government Agreement. This is the document that would lay the groundwork for Délı̨nę self-government. Before the agreement could be finalized, it had to be approved by the members of the Délı̨nę First Nation and Délı̨nę beneficiaries of the Sahtú land claim through a ratification vote.

March 12, 2014

The eligible voters—roughly half of whom lived outside of the community of Délı̨nę—voted overwhelmingly to approve the final agreement. Following this ratification, the territorial and federal governments also had to approve the agreement and pass legislation to recognize it. Both governments passed laws recognizing the Délı̨nę’s Final Self-Government Agreement in 2015.

September 2015

The Délı̨nę First Nation, Délı̨nę Land Corporation and Délı̨nę Charter Community began the process of preparing to dissolve these three bodies and merge their functions into a single Délı̨nę Got’ine Government.

September 1, 2016

The Délı̨nę Got’ine Government was realized

To read more information on the transition to self-governance for Délı̨nę, please visit the Délı̨nę Self-Government archive site link.

Délı̨nę Got’ı̨nę Government