What is Gwich'in government? 

A Gwich'in government is our inherent right to self-determination. A Gwich'in government will allow us to create our own laws, policies, and programs that work for us. We will be able to leave colonial government in the past and design and implement programs and services that are culturally relevant and meet the unique needs of our communities. 

Frequently asked questions

What does collaborative self-government mean?

Self-government belongs to each of us. Gwich’in are taking a community-driven, collaborative approach to build our own government. Each community has a negotiator and self-government team who work with a regional team. The self-government teams listen to people and bring feedback to the negotiation table to make sure all Gwich’in voices are heard. 

Who will be affected by Gwich’in self-government?

Gwich’in self-government will apply to all Gwich’in Participants enrolled under the land claim and living in Aklavik, Tetlit Zheh, or Tsiigehtchic. Self-government will also apply to the management of Gwich’in lands. 

Neighbouring Indigenous groups may be indirectly affected by Gwich’in self-government. They have been and will continue to be consulted through out the process. 

Will self-government affect our existing rights?

No! Self-government will not affect or change our existing rights. We will keep our Treaty 11, land claim, and section 35 rights under the Constitution.

As Indigenous people, we have the inherent right to self-determination. Self-government will allow us to  make our own laws and take over programs and services within the GSA. 

Will self-government affect Treaty 11 or land claim benefits?

No! Self-government will not affect any benefits under Treaty 11 or chapter 3 of the land claim. All Gwich’in Participants, no matter where you live, will continue to receive land claim benefits. All four Gwich’in communities share collective land rights from our land claim, which we will continue to work together to exercise. 

Will we still be status Indians?

Yes, anyone who qualifies to be a status Indian will still be registered under the Indian Act. 

Can I still access free dental and other health benefits?

Yes. All registered status Indians under the Indian Act will still qualify for non-insured health benefits like dental care, prescription medication, and prescription glasses.

Why should I participate in the self-government negotiations process?

We need all Gwich’in voices to design a government that works for each community. Attending community meetings and providing feedback into the self-government process will help create a self-government agreement that works for everyone. 

We want to hear from you!

How can I participate in the self-government process?

There are lots of ways to get involved 

Participating in all these things (or as many as possible!) will help us better understand community needs.

Where are Gwich’in in the self-government process and what are the steps to achieve self government?

Gwich’in are currently in the negotiation phase of the self-government process. It will take a few years to negotiate a Gwich'in Collaborative Self-Government (GCSG) agreement. Here is an overview of the process:

Agreement-in-Principle: An Agreement-in-Principle (AiP) is a roadmap for self-government. We have a draft AiP that has 20 chapters representing a component of our Gwich'in Collaborative Self-Government agreement.

You can read AiP chapter summaries here.

Negotiations: Each chapter of the AiP needs to be negotiated between the Regional Gwich’in Collaborative, the Government of Canada, and the GNWT. 

Voting: We need you to approve the Gwich'in Collaborative Self-Government agreement. When the final agreement is ready, eligible Gwich’in voters will have the opportunity to vote 'yes' or 'no'. 

Gwich'in Collaborative Self-Government agreement: If Gwich’in vote for self-government, the Government of Canada and the GNWT will approve the agreement through legislation. The final agreement will be a legally binding document, enforceable by law. 

What will our government look like with self-government?

Gwich’in communities will decide what government will look like under self-government.

How it looks now: Currently, Gwich’in have two governments operating side by side. Indian Act Bands are responsible for delivering federal programs in each community and DGOs deliver services under the land claim. 

How it will look under self-government: This is up to Gwich’in communities!  With self-government, each Gwich’in community will have the tools they need to create their own government. New community governments can still choose to call their governments Chief and Council but these governments will be able to do more than they can now. 

Once we have self-government there will be a regional government for the entire GSA based out of Inuvik and community governments in  Aklavik, Tetlit Zheh, and Tsiigehtchic. The regional government will take on the responsibilities of the GTC and the community governments will take the responsibilities of the Bands and DGOs. 

Where does the money come from for self-government?

The Government of Canada funds Indigenous self-governments and Gwich’in Collaborative Self-Government will be funded through these federal policies. 

Will Gwich’in have to take on all programs and services at once?

No! We can design our self-government one step at a time. We can take on designing and implementing programs and services when we are ready. With each step we take and with each new program or service we take on, we will build our capacity to take on more. 

I live outside the GSA. How will I benefit from self-government?

All Gwich’in will benefit from a strong and prosperous region. Self-government will create new jobs in government administration and program delivery, and we need Gwich’in to do the work. More jobs in the GSA means more opportunities for you to come home and work for your community. 

I live outside the GSA. How will self-government affect how I access government programs and services?

Gwich’in living outside the GSA will still be able to receive programs and services from federal, territorial or provincial governments where they live.

I live outside the GSA. How can I participate in self-government?

Self-government belongs to all Gwich’in and all Gwich’in voices matter! The Regional Gwich’in Collaborative will host community meetings in Yellowknife, Whitehorse, and Edmonton, conduct surveys, and share self-government information and resources throughout the process. 

There are lots of ways to get involved 

Participating in all these things (or as many as possible!) will help us better understand community needs.

How will self-government affect municipal, territorial, and federal programs and services?

All residents of the NWT are entitled to essential programs and services no matter where they live in the territory. Self-government will allow Gwich’in to take over delivery of some of these programs and services such as education or child and family services. 

Our territorial and municipal government will continue to deliver essential services such as hospital services, highway and ferry maintenance, and local services in our communities such as solid waste management. With self-government there will be opportunities for Gwich’in to work closely with other governments for the delivery of these services. 

Who will be represented in the future Gwich'in Collaborative Self-Government (GCSG)?

Participants registered under the land claim from the Ehdiitat, Tetlit, and Gwichya communities will be represented by the future Gwich’in Collaborative Self-Government. This includes status Indians and Métis.

Why are Nihtat not part of the Regional Gwich’in Collaborative?

In 2017, the Nihtat Gwich’in Council informed GTC, Government of Canada, and the GNWT that they wanted to re-think the regional approach to negotiations. They left the process to negotiate their own community-based self-government agreement. 

Although the Nihtat are not part of our current negotiations, we are all Gwich’in and they are always welcome back to our negotiations.