By: Skyler Isaac
On the afternoon of May 29th, 2018, delegates gathered at the Champagne Aishihik offices in Whitehorse, Yukon, in order to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the First Nations’ signing of their land claim final agreement with the Canadian government.
The event was attended by several prominent members of the First Nation community, including Grand Chief Peter Johnston, current Champagne Aishihik Chief Steve Smith, Former Chief Paul Berkle, and Chief Negotiator Dave Joe. All those present shared in both cake and reverie.
Champagne Aishihik was among the first First Nations to sign final agreements with the federal government.
“Over this past twenty-five years we’ve seen a huge move by Yukon First Nations,” said Chief Steve Smith in a speech, “We were stepping off the precipice in 1993. We were like, “Okay, we kinda wanted to do this. Now we’re doing it.”
The Chief also gave a significant amount of recognition to former Chief Paul Berkle and all others who played a role in the process.
“Paul was instrumental in Champagne Aishihik,” he continued, “Leading us down what was very much an unknown path for us. We’ve seen that path develop into a complete and utter understanding by the rest of our fellow Canadian citizens that First Nations are not going away. We’re here for the long haul.”
The Champagne Aishihik First Nation has flourished since the signing of their final agreement. They have regained their self-governance, therefore “making a conscious decision to take control of our own lives”, according to Smith. They are also finding success in the business community, and are proving to be a reliable business partner.
“Congratulations,” Smith said in conclusion, “Not only to Champagne Aishihik, but to all First Nations in the Yukon who have seen some of their goals and dreams of settling their land claim with Canada.”