The Dene Declaration was a statement of the same position that the nation of Dene have always had, no different than the position that the leaders had during the signing of Treaty #8 and Treaty #11. The Dene Declaration was not a new position that many people thought that it was. It was stating the Dene struggle for recognition and the right to govern themselves.
Statements of Rights
We the Dene of the N.W.T. insist on the right to be regarded by ourselves and the world as a Nation.
Our struggle is for the recognition of the Dene Nation by the Government and the people of Canada and the peoples and governments of the world.
As once Europe was the exclusive homeland of the European peoples, Africa the exclusive homeland of the African peoples, the New world, North and South America, was the exclusive homeland of Aboriginal peoples of the New World, the Amerindian and the Inuit.
The New World like other parts of the world has suffered the experience of colonialism and imperialism. Other peoples who have occupied the land -- often with force -- and foreign governments have imposed themselves on our people. Ancient civilizations and the ways of life have been destroyed.
Colonialism and imperialism are now dead or dying. Recent years have witnessed the birth of new nations or rebirth of old nations out of the ashes of colonialism.
As Europe is the place where you will find European governments for European peoples, now also will you find in Africa and Asia the existence of African and Asian countries with African and Asian governments for the African and Asian peoples.
The African and Asian peoples -- the peoples of the third World -- have fought for and won the right to self-determination the right to recognition as distinct peoples and the recognition of themselves as nations.
But in the New World the native peoples have not fared so well. Even in countries in South America where the Native peoples are the vast majority of the population there is not one country which has an Amerindian government for the Amerindian peoples.
Nowhere in the New World have the Native peoples won the right of self-determination and the right to recognition by the world as a distinct peoples as a Nations.
While the Native people of Canada are a minority in their homeland, the Native people of the N.W.T., the Dene and the Inuit, are a majority of the population of the N.W.T.
The Dene find themselves as part of a country. That country is Canada. But the Government of Canada is not the Government of the Dene. The Government of the N.W.T. is not the government of the Dene. These governments where not the choice of the Dene, they were imposed on the Dene.
What we the Dene are struggling for is the recognition of the Dene Nation by the governments and peoples of the world.
And while there are realities we are forced to submit to, such as the existence of a country called Canada, we insist on the right to self-determination as a distinct people and the recognition of the Dene Nation.
We the Dene are part of the Fourth World. And as the peoples and Nations of the world have come to recognize the existence and right of those peoples who make up the Third World the day must come and will come when the nations of the Fourth World, will come to be recognized and respected. The challenge to the Dene and the world is to find the way for the recognition of the Dene Nation.
Our plea to the world is to help us in our struggle to find a place in the world community where we can exercise our right to self-determination as a distinct people and as a Nation.
What we seek then is independence and self-determination within the country of Canada. This is what we mean when we call for a just land settlement for the Dene Nation.
Unanimously passed. Joint National Assembly. Fort Simpson, 1975.