Two treaties were signed with the Canadian government, Treaty #8 and Treaty #11. These were peace treaties when non-Dene were moving and settling in what was the Northwest Territories — encompassing Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia and present day Northwest Territories. Changes were eminent for our Dene homeland as fur traders, explorers, surveyors, and missionaries kept coming to deal with the business of their trade. A treaty party arrived to negotiate Treaty #8 on July 25, 1900 on the south shores of Tutcho (Great Slave Lake) at a place called Fort Resolution, today this community is known as Deninu Kue. In meeting with the Dene, the chiefs understood that Treaty #8 was a document of protection, it would be signed as an agreement for the Dene to continue maintaining occupancy and use of all their traditional lands and waterways, a guarantee of control of traditional homeland.
As time progressed, oil was discovered in 1920, near the community of Tulita, which means “Where Two Rivers Meet” in the Sahtu Dene language; it is located on the south shore of the Bear River. Tulita was formerly called Fort Norman. Oil drilling equipment and workers began drilling for the valuable resource at Norman Wells, named because of its close proximity to Tulita (Fort Norman). As a result of the value of oil, the Crown gave high priority to making treaty with the Dene Sahtu and on July 21, 1921 Treaty #11 was signed in Tulita. A Metis by the name of Ted Trindell who was from Liidli Koe (Fort Simpson) was a witness to the negotiations and signing of Treaty #11, said: “They talked about the land, and the Indians were scared that by taking treaty they would lose all their rights, but the Indians were told they would not. But if they were taking treaty they would still be free to roam and hunt as usual. No interference.”
Today, the Dene and the Crown still do not have a shared understanding of the terms of Treaty # 8 and Treaty #11. However, through negotiations with the Dene within the five regions, they are working to resolve outstaning land, resource and governance issues.