Report of an Inquiry into an Injustice

Begade Shutagot'ine and the Sahtu Treaty


A Report of an Inquiry into an Injustice chronicles Peter Kulchyski’s experiences with the Begade Shutagot’ine, a small community of a few hundred people living in and around Tulita (formerly Fort Norman), on the Mackenzie River in the heart of Canada’s Northwest Territories. Despite their formal objections and boycott of the agreement, the band and their lands were included in the Sahtu Treaty, a modern comprehensive land claims agreement negotiated between the Government of Canada and the Sahtu Tribal Council, representing Dene and Metis peoples of the region. While both Treaty 11 (1921) and the Sahtu Treaty (1994) purport to extinguish Begade Shutagot'ine Aboriginal title, oral history and documented attempts to exclude themselves from treaty strongly challenge the validity of that extinguishment.

Structured as a series of briefs to an inquiry into the Begade Shutagot’ine’s claim, this manuscript documents the negotiation and implementation of the Sahtu Treaty and amasses evidence of historical and continued presence and land use to make eminently clear that the Begade Shutagot'ine are the continued owners of the land by law: they have not extinguished title to their traditional territories; they continue to exercise their customs, practices, and traditions on those territories; and they have a fundamental right to be consulted on, and refuse or be compensated for, development projects on those territories.

Kulchyski bears eloquent witness to the Begade Shutagot'ine people's two-decade struggle for land rights, which have been blatantly ignored by federal and territorial authorities for too long.


Report of an Inquiry into an Injustice is engaging, warm, passionate, and an important critique of the land claims process in northern Canada. Kulchyski deftly weaves an academic, personal, and often poetic narrative in the way only a seasoned, confident scholar can.”

Thomas McIlwraith, University of Guelph

“Written as a series of four depositions, this book serves as a first person witnessing of Begade Shutagot’ine lives lived in relationship with their territories, and their fight to protect their lands and people in the face of an unjust system designed to appropriate them into colonial formations. By expertly weaving his own experiences with Begade Shutagot’ine people with political and legal theory, Kulchyski offers an important critique of comprehensive land claim processes in northern Canada.”

Carly Dokis, The Canadian Journal of Native Studies

“Will the Begade Shutagot’ine have an opportunity to negotiate a modern treaty of reaffirmation? If they do, Kulchyski’s book will provide scholarly and intimate witness to the strength of their position. In the meantime, given its accessible style, Report of an Inquiry into an Injustice will be of interest to both academics and readers more generally for its reflections on academic allyship, its insights into Canadian legal institutions, and its heartfelt documenting of the words and lives of contemporary Begade Shutagot’ine.”

A.W.A. Gemmell, American Indian Culture and Research Journal

"Peter Kulchyski, a senior Native studies scholar at the University of Manitoba, has written a slightly maverick book, which shapeshifts cunningly across several different genres. He frames it overall as a ‘witness statement’ to a fictional Inquiry, in support of the Begade Shutagot’ine (Dene) people of the Deh Cho (Mackenzie river) valley and hinterland, and their frustration with the processes of treaty negotiation over Aboriginal rights in Denendeh (alias the Northwest Territories)."

Keith Battarbee, British Journal of Canadian Studies

About the Author

Peter Kulchyski grew up in northern Manitoba and was one of the few non-Aboriginal students to attend a government-run residential high school. He has a PhD from York University and is a senior Canadian scholars in Native Studies. He is the co-editor of In the Words of the Elders: Aboriginal Cultures in Transition and co-author of Tammarniitt [Mistakes]: Inuit Relocation in the Eastern Arctic, which won the Erminie Wheeler-Voegelin Prize of the American Society for Ethnohistory.

Table of Contents

Opening Brief
Deposition One: Tulita
Deposition Two: Caribou Flats
Deposition Three: Drum Lake
Deposition Four: Stewart Lake
Closing Brief: Love Letter to Section 25 of the Canadian Constitution