Dr. Ken Coates told delegates attending this year’s 46th Annual Geoscience Forum that the Yukon offers the world a story of success in the art of treaty-making. And the world continues to watch. Coates told the mining industry Saturday it’s on the front line of reconciliation.
Raised in the Yukon from Grade 3 through high school, the historian and professor at the University of Saskatchewan said he can see the success from where he’s sitting outside the territory. He remembers back to 1973, when local Indigenous leaders came to speak to their Grade 11 law class at F.H. Collins Secondary School.
The class was mostly white students, because in those days, many of the aboriginal students had already dropped out by Grade 11. His Grade 8 class was about 30 per cent Indigenous, but that had fallen to just a fraction by Grade 11.
It was the year local First Nation leaders went to Ottawa to deliver Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow to then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau. It was the year the federal government agreed to restart negotiations to establish modern day treaties, and Yukon First Nations were first in line.
Coates told the representatives of mining companies and others in the geoscience audience they are on the front line of reconciliation. When the Truth and Reconciliation Commission began its work, the professor was not optimistic. He’s much more so now.
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