Delegates from the Dene Nation, Inuvialuit, and Northwest Territory Métis Nation met in Inuvik from March 13-17, 2023, attending the Dene Nation Nagwichoonjik Water Summit. The summit was called to address the many outstanding concerns and issues associated with water in the north.
Duane Smith, Inuvialuit Regional Corporation Chair stated, “The Inuvialuit are pleased that we were able to meet with representatives of the Dene Nation and Northwest Territory Metis Nation on water related issues. There are no boundaries when we deal with the environment. We have to do this together.”
Much of the focus was on the recent tailings’ ponds spill from the Alberta tar sands containing toxic chemicals, including arsenic leaking into the watershed and flowing to the Arctic Ocean to International waters. Imperial Oil Ltd.’s Kearl mine has released wastewater harmful to wildlife for almost a year before reports surfaced in February of this year.
Garry Bailey, President of the Northwest Territory Metis Nation, commented, “It was great for our Elders, youth, and elected leaders to come together with the Dene and the Inuvialuit in this historic gathering at Inuvik to share our common concerns about water and to make recommendations to Canada on how we, the Indigenous Governments of the NWT, believe Canada should address water issues plaguing the Mackenzie Valley watershed. I look forward to the Indigenous Governments continuing to work together, and I anticipate a follow-up summit in the near future.”
A joint statement of concerns and recommendations was worked on and approved by the summit providing instructions and guidance on how to move forward. This summit was the first time the Dene Nation, Inuvialuit and Northwest Territory Metis Nation have met on a priority and urgent issue to agree on how to proceed together.
Dene National Chief Gerald Antoine stated, “The Nagwichoonjik Water Summit was a historic and important step. It brought the Original Families together and allowed them to focus on how to frame the steps forward to address the health and environmental issues of our home, Mother Earth, and to seek commitments from those who are responsible for these impacts.”
Attachments: Water Summit Joint Statement