Yukon First Nations celebrate land claim milestone with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the land claim

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the land claim “Together Today for our Children Tomorrow” at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Center in Whitehorse on Sunday. (Evan Mitsui/CBC – photo credit)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended celebrations of a milestone in the history of indigenous land claims at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Center in Whitehorse on Sunday.

It was the 50th anniversary of Together Today for our Children Tomorrow, a document presented in 1973 by a group of Yukon First Nations chiefs to then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. It opened the door to modern negotiations for land claims in Canada, as well as self-government arrangements throughout the Yukon.

“When they spoke about ‘Together Today for our Children Tomorrow,’ we were the children of tomorrow,” said Maria Benoit, the Carcross/Tagish First Nation chief, who attended Sunday’s event.

“We’re here, and we’re still standing, and we’re still celebrating.”

Judy Gingell, the Elder of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation, was one of the leaders who went to Ottawa 50 years ago.

She said she was excited to see the impact of this meeting.

“What you see today, you never saw in 1973,” she said. “We were governed by the Indian Act, our resources were very limited, our homes were very small, our education was not for our people. And what you see today is that we are in the driver’s seat of our own goal.”

Evan Mitsui/CBC

Evan Mitsui/CBC

Trudeau addressed Yukon Chiefs at the cultural center along with Council of Yukon First Nations Grand Chief Peter Johnston, whose father was among those who met Pierre Trudeau in 1973. Trudeau also brought his youngest son, Hadrien, to Sunday’s event.

“It was wonderful and important for me to come here in the Yukon tonight — and kind of fitting because 50 years ago you came to visit my father in Ottawa,” Trudeau told those present.

“The significance of this gesture, which led to the successful negotiation of modern treaties, goes so far beyond what you have accomplished here for the Yukon.

During the event, the Council of Yukon First Nations presented Trudeau with a black-and-white photograph of his father and brother Alexandre Emmanuel “Sacha” Trudeau, taken at a playground in Old Crow, traditional Vuntut Gwitchin territory, in the 1970s and one of the first four Yukon First Nations to enter into a land claim agreement.

An eventful visit

Trudeau’s visit to the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Center was part of a trip specifically to celebrate the 50th anniversary, but took place during a busy weekend in the area.

On Saturday, Trudeau said the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) shot down an unidentified object in Canadian airspace.

The subject came up during Sunday’s visit, when Trudeau met an elder for tea. Trudeau told the elder it was not clear what type of hazard these objects posed.

“They fly at the same altitude as airliners up there,” he noted.

Yukon Premier Ranj Pillai released a statement assuring Yukoners there was no security risk and praising the decision to shoot down the object.

Trudeau is expected to meet Pillai on Monday.

Trudeau’s visit also sparked a protest outside the MacBride Museum later Sunday night when he attended a Yukon Liberal Party fundraiser.

About 50 people gathered outside the museum, some holding signs protesting COVID-19 vaccines and urging Trudeau to resign. Many waved Canadian flags, while some waved flags that read “F*ck Trudeau.”

Federal Secretary of Indigenous Services Patty Hajdu and Yukon Rep. Brendan Hanley both attended the event. When they arrived, the protesters booed and some came up to yell at them.


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