What Happened After Treaty-making?
The Dene continued to live as they had always lived as per their understanding of the Treaty making. In 1916, Canada informed the Dene that they could no longer hunt migratory birds as Canada along with the United States of America and Mexico agree to the Migratory Birds Convention to prohibit the hunting of migratory birds in the spring.
The Dene had always hunted migratory birds in the spring. They considered the Convention as a violation of the Treaty and refused to take Treaty monies for three years. At one point, Chief Joseph Drygeese (Emilís younger brother) evicted prospectors from the Territory.
As a result of these actions, a commissioner was sent in 1920 to talk to the Akaitcho Dene who were gathered in Deninu Kue. According to the Elders, the Commissioner wanted to continue the Treaty relationship. The Dene told him that the Treaty was not to interfere with their lives. The Treaty was to work for both sides. If it did not work for the Dene, then they were prepared to leave it. The Commissioner assured the Dene that the Crown wanted the Treaty and they could continue to live as they had always lived including hunting migratory birds.
In addition, the Dene told the Commissioner that they wanted areas where no non-Dene would hunt. The Commissioner agreed. Subsequently, there were two areas withdrawn and surveyed as exclusive hunting, trapping, fishing and gathering areas of the Akaitcho Dene.
One area was known as the Yellowknives Game Preserve and the other area was known as the Slave River Preserve. These Preserves were in place until the 1950ís when the non-Dene living in the Yellowknife area asked the Minister of Indian Affairs to remove them so that they could hunt in the area around Yellowknife which had a gold mines operating.
The removal of the Game Preserves are viewed by the Dene as a Treaty violation. These preserves which were put in place by Order in Council following the meetings held in Deninu Kue in the summer of 1920 and remained in place for more than thirty years to protect the Dene against the incursions into their hunting, trapping, gathering and fishing area as a part of the Treaty. The Dene to this day still hunt migratory birds in the spring.