Dogrib - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. From aboriginal times to the Present, the Dogrib have been without class distinctions. Among men, the good hunter-trapper commands approbation, as does the hardworking woman. Some persons of mixed Indian-White ancestry are regarded as fully Indian by their fellows; others, whose families have operated as cultural brokers between Indians and Whites, are viewed as a distinctive sector of the society, but are not accorded higher status by the Indians.

Political Organization. Aboriginally, the several socioterritorial groups or regional bands of Dogribs were autonomous. Leaders, whose roles were tied to economic pursuits and in historic times to White-Dogrib contact relations, were consensually accepted on the basis of demonstrated energy, intelligence, and ability. Regional bands had recognized leaders. During the period of the Hudson's Bay Company fur trade monopoly, a "trading chief," Ekawi Dzimi, emerged as spokesman and negotiator with the company at Fort Rae. With the "signing" of Treaty No. 11 at Rae in 1921, the Government required an official installation of "chief" and "councilors." (The Detah Dogrib already had an official chief under Treaty No. 8.) Monphwi, who had succeeded the trading chief as prime leader of the Rae Dogrib, became "chief" and the regional band leaders, "councilors". Chief and Councilors continued to be chosen consensually by their male peers until 1971 when, upon the retirement of the aged Rae chief, Jimmy Bruneau, the first formal elections were held for those offices. In 1969, the Indian Brotherhood of the Northwest Territories was formed. Several young educated and bilingual Dogrib played prominent roles in the Brotherhood as they have in the Dene Nation, which in 1978 succeeded the Brotherhood as the representative body for all the Dene Peoples of the Northwest Territories in dealing with the Canadian government in respect to land claims, control of resources, and native rights.

Social Control and Conflict. Dogribs avoid confrontational behavior, a norm that may be abrogated under conditions of drunkenness. Internalized standards, gossip, and public opinion usually serve to keep individuals in line. Differences of opinion or goals between individuals, factions, or regional groups are characteristically muted. The Dogrib ideal has always been that people should "listen to one another" and come to consensus on issues. The recent exposure of young people to White-style schooling and pop culture has promoted a generational and cultural gap in values and outlook. Government police power is vested in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police; the post at Rae was established in 1924. Crimes by Canadian legal definition are tried in Territorial courts, administered from the territorial capital at Yellowknife.

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