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Yellowknives Dene reach agreement with house boaters

The Yellowknives Dene First Nation said plans are in place for the house boaters who remain in their territory to move, and are preparing legal cases to deal with the problem in the future.

Back in September, Ndilo Chief Ernest Bestina announced YKDFN would be issuing notices to four or five houseboats that had drifted onto the eastern side of Yellowknife Bay into Dene territory they would have to move.

With Yellowknife’s lakes freezing over, Jason Snaggs, the chief executive officer for YKDFN, said in an email all the house boats had responded to their notices.

Two of the boats moved before the lake froze. One requested they be allowed to move after the ice breaks up in the spring. 

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Another man, whose two rented barges had drifted east in YKDFN territory, asked the Yellowknives Dene if they could remove them when the ice melts in the spring.

Getting all the houseboats to move before the lake froze was a “logistical nightmare” Snaggs said in an interview with

Snaggs added YKDFN had meetings with the federal department of fisheries and the local RCMP detachment about the situation. They have been working with their legal team to draft a brief they’ll be able “to keep in their back pocket” in the case of similar circumstances in the future.

The Yellowknives Dene are also waiting on a decision from the territorial government about formalizing a boundary change to their territory that would see Ndilo and Joliffe Island in Yellowknife Bay incorporated into YKDFN territory.

“The island has traditional knowledge significance to YKDFN,” said Snaggs. “We see this as an island of friendship but it needs to be restored as a place people can visit.”

Snaggs said YKDFN is working with the City of Yellowknife and the GNWT on finalizing the border change.

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