Métis Elders from Hay River, Fort Resolution, Fort Smith and Yellowknife
gathered for the Annual General Assembly in Fort Smith in 2004.
Before the fall of Quebec in 1763, French and mixed-blood coureurs de bois traveled into the Athabasca country, living with Dene and Cree families. When North West Company traders explored north to Great Slave Lake in the 1780s, they met the family of the French/Cree coureur de bois Francois Beaulieu I and his Chipewyan wife Ethiba.
Beaulieu and his son, Francois Beaulieu II, along with other early Métis, including the Mandeville, Cayen, Houle, Poitras, Tourangeau, St. Germain, Mercredi and Lafferty families, were vital players in building the country that was to become Canada. Métis played a nationally significant role in northern exploration, the fur trade and Treaty-making. At the same time, our ancestors were creating a new nation of Métis.
The Métis Nation of the South Slave arose during the same era as the Métis fur trade communities that grew up in the American Midwest-Great Lakes region and the historic Métis Nation of the Canadian prairies. Our Métis Nation eventually had trade and marriage links to these communities. Many of us are related to Métis people from the Great Lakes or Red River who came north in the 1800s. The Lafferty family is one distinguished family who can trace their heritage back to the American Great Lakes Métis communities, via Red River, Fort Chipewyan and Fort Resolution.
Some of our ancestors fought in the battles for Métis rights to protect their traditional land on the Prairies. Most of the indigenous Métis of the South Slave were not part of the Métis resistance, but regarded it as important and kept in touch with events. Martyred Métis statesman Louis Riel himself is said to be our relative, through the Bouchers, a Chipewyan family of Ile a la Cross, Saskatchewan.
We are direct descendents of those people who signed Treaty 8 at Fort Chipewyan, Smith’s Landing and Fort Resolution. However, we have never been accorded the benefits of Treaty 8 or recognized as a First Nations people.
We, the indigenous Métis of the South Slave, now reside mainly in the communities of Fort Smith, Hay River, Fort Resolution and Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories.
We did not cede, surrender or release Aboriginal title to the lands and resources throughout our traditional territory. We shall always have Aboriginal rights to the use of our lands and resources. We also have the inherent right to govern ourselves in matters that are internal to our communities and traditional territory, integral to our distinctive culture and practices, customs and traditions, and with respect to our unique relationship to our land, water and resources, and essential to our operations as governments.
In 1996, the NWTMN, the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) and Canada signed the NWTMN Framework Agreement to commence negotiations on land, resources and self-government. On July 31, 2015, The Parties signed the Agreement-in-Principle (AIP) on land and resource matters. The Parties are currently negotiating a Final Land and Resources Agreement, and are negotiating an agreement for self-government.