Youth take on Treaty 11 events in Aklavik

“I definitely think celebrating wouldn't be the right word. I'm just not exactly sure what else to call it,” says Ocean McLoed.

Aklavik Indian Band staff presenting Treaty 11 cake. (Anonda Canadien/CKLB)

The week of events started on July 26 with current and past chiefs Danny Greenland and Charlie Furlough saying a few words about Treaty 11, followed by a cookout and the start of the workshops. 

Parka cover, card holder, earrings and keychain making workshops happened throughout the week with a dozen of people attending each night. Every evening there was a cookout, and on the last day of events a cake was brought out for the staff and boxes with treats for the community members.

With the focus primarily on the ‘older’ generation and elders, there hasn’t been much engagement from the young generation on their thoughts of Treaty 11.

Ocean McLeod, a business admin graduate from Yukon College, recently moved back home due to the pandemic and is currently working as the executive assistant for the Ehdiitat Gwich’in Council (EGC).

Ocean McLeod is one of the workshop organizers. (Anonda Canadien/CKLB)

McLeod has mixed feelings about the treaty, “it’s just really cool that you know, they know it was 100 years ago that Treaty 11 was signed. I definitely think that should be a part of education…and I definitely do think we’re celebrating 100 years of colonization…I do want to learn more about it. But at the same time, I’m like, we’re celebrating colonizers giving native people five dollars for their land.”

The one thing these youth have in common is that they want to have Treaty 11, incorporated into their education.

“It’s part of our life, so maybe educating students on…what’s in the agreement, what is Treaty 11,” says Ashton Semple is one of the youth coordinators with the ECG Jordans Principal team, suggesting that communities can host information sessions on teaching Treaty 11. 

Frank Gruben is another youth coordinator. 

“I know that they signed it so we could get an education and all that stuff right. I just know that they were celebrating the signing of Treaty 11 for the 100th anniversary,” he said.

CKLB reached out to Briony Grabke, Education, Culture and Employment spokesperson, on what is taught about Treaty 11 and the plan to expand on it.

She said Grade 5 is when students first learn about the treaties at “an age appropriate level.” Treaties are then addressed again in Grade 10 Northern Studies, where students learn about the history of colonization including treaties and land claims, and the impact of the treaties.

In expanding on the education of Treaty 11, she said the department is planning two new Northern Studies courses in collaboration with Indigenous Governments. Northern Studies 20 is expected to be piloted in NWT schools in the 2023-24 school year and Northern Studies 30 following in the coming years. ECE also plans on creating a package in regards to the events of the 100th anniversary of Treaty 11.

Frank Gruben is one of the youth coordinators for the EGC Jordan’s Principle Team. (Anonda Canadien/CKLB)

McLeod says she has working knowledge of Treaty 11, and suggests asking Elders for more information.

 “It’s like them passing on their knowledge of what they were taught,” she says.

She also questions whether Treaty 11 should be celebrated or commemorated. A lot of communities across Denendeh are using the word “celebrating”, but what is there to celebrate?

 “I definitely think celebrating wouldn’t be the right word. I’m just not exactly sure what else to call it. It’s like, just remembering…what happened in past history, I suppose.”

If there is something to celebrate, it’s the Elders and what they went through 100 years ago to get the agreements of Treaty 11.

However, there isn’t much to celebrate with continued broken agreements and promises on the federal government’s side. 

“(We) should definitely look at what they’ve actually upheld and what needs to be revisited and…what’s their plan to start?” says McLeod.