On August 22, 1921, Chief Monfwi, representing all Tlicho, signed Treaty 11 with Canada. The Treaty promised to give the Tlicho annual payments and services, like medical care, education and old age care. In exchange, Canada would get title to the land, and would be free to allow gas and mineral exploration throughout the Mackenzie Valley.
Download: Treaty 11
Treaty 11 was negotiated during the summer of 1921. During the negotiations, many concerns were raised, but Canada assured the people that they would not lose their right to hunt, fish and trap. By the end of the summer, Chief Monfwi signed the Treaty at a ceremony in Behchoko.
At the time of signing, Chief Monfwi pronounced the words that guide us to this day:
“as long as the sun rises, the river flows, and the land does not move, we will not be restricted from our way of life”.
When the treaty commissioners reached Fort Rae in 1921, the Dogrib people there were well aware that the promises the government had made to the Dogribs and Chipewyans, who had signed the treaty at Fort Resolution in 1900, had not been kept. The native people would not sign Treaty 11 unless the government guaranteed hunting and trapping rights over the whole of their traditional territory.
This is Harry Black’s account of the negotiations with the Dogribs:
Chief Monfwi stated that if his terms were met and agreed upon, then there will be a treaty, but if his terms were not met, then ‘there will be no treaty since you [Treaty Officials] are on my land.” ... The Indian agent asked Chief Monfwi ... what size of land he wanted for the band. Monfwi stated ... “The size of land has to be large enough for all of my people.”... Chief Monfwi asked for a land boundary starting from Fort Providence, all along the Mackenzie River, right up to Great Bear Lake, then across to Contwoyto Lake ... Snowdrift, along the Great Slave Lake, back to Fort Providence. The next day we crowded into the meeting tent again and began the big discussion about the land boundary again. Finally they came to an agreement and a land boundary was drawn up. Chief Monfwi said that within this land boundary there will be no closed season on game so long as the sun rises and the great river flows and only upon these terms I will accept the treaty money. [cited in Fumoleau, op. cit., p. 192ff.]
The Government of the Northwest Territories had, by this time, begun to take shape. The first territorial government headquarters opened in Fort Smith in 1921, and its first session was the same year, with oil the main item on the agenda. The duties of the new administration included inspection of the oil well and of the country to see if it was suitable for a pipeline. The Dene had signed Treaties 8 and 11 on the understanding that they would be free to hunt and fish over their traditional territory, and that the government would protect them from the competition and intrusion of white trappers.