The Sahtú Region, Northwest Territories is arguably the most ecologically diverse area of North America, encompassing the world’s eighth-largest freshwater lake, Sahtú (Great Bear Lake); portions of Shúhtaot’ı̨nę Nę́nę́ (the Mackenzie Mountains) and Canada’s longest river system, Dǝho (the Mackenzie River); and the transition between dechı̨ta (taiga forest) and gokw’i (arctic tundra). The cultural and linguistic diversity of its Dene and Métis peoples arises from the region’s landscapes; families traditionally traveled seasonally on the land and today many families maintain or are seeking to rekindle their ancestral stewardship roles with specific areas.
Ɂehdzo Got’ı̨nę Gots’ę́ Nákedı
(Sahtú Renewalbe Resources Board)
The Ɂehdzo Got’ı̨nę Gots’ę́ Nákedı (Sahtú Renewable Resources Board) is the main instrument of wildlife management in the Sahtu Settlement Area and is also responsible for wildlife and harvesting, to maintain Dene and Métis harvesting traditions, and keep the land and animals healthy for future generations in and around the five communities, they are the resource management board that was created by the Sahtú land claim agreement and also is one of three co-management boards in the Sahtú Region, along with the Sahtú Land and Water Board and Sahtú Land Use Planning Board. They work with the communities, government, and industry to manage the land wisely, But mostly with the People around the main communities, Fort Good Hope, Tulı́t’a, Norman Wells, Behdzı Ahda (Colville Lake), and Délı̨nę.
The Ɂehdzo Got’ı̨nę Gots’ę́ Nákedı has also been very involved in many projects like Climate Change, Education and Training, Mapping, Monitoring, Traditional Economy and Traditional Knowledge, but also been involved in a lot of on the land programs such as Dene Ts’įlį 2017-2018, The Guardians Program in 2019, Sahtu Youth Network Gathering 2019
2016 - Sahtú hé Deocha hé Dene Náowerǝ́ Chets’elǝ – Great Bear Lake and Mackenzie River Dene Knowledge: Research Camps
Project Leads: Leon Andrew, Sahtú Renewable Resources Board; Michael Neyelle, Sahtú Renewable Resources Board; Edward Reeves, Délın̨ ę Ɂehdzo Got’ın̨ e; Roger Odgaard, Sahtu Monitoring Forum; Jennie Vandermeer, Government of the Northwest Territories; Mandy Bayha, Délın̨ ę Ɂehdzo Got’ın̨ e; *Chelsea Martin, University of Alberta
This Project was an on-the-land camp designed by the Nę K’ǝ Dene Ts’ı̨lı̨ Forum, including an annual Sahtú cross-cultural research camp. Participants gathered in order to document narratives and a practice-based system for cross-family, cross-community, and cross-generational exchange of traditional knowledge and skills in water safety, fish preparation, and the sharing economy. The goal was to strengthen the planning processes for traditional research and provide information about water and fish, to reinforce community governance and leadership in water stewardship, and to further out collaboration with community-driven traditional knowledge research and monitoring. The elder interviewees in the project shared plenty of knowledge about fishing practices and their harvesting travels, past and present. Some of the main lessons learned include:
Though there were fish in many places, some areas where the fish were, were not considered safe to eat due to high levels of minerals and mercury.
Both salmon and char have been caught in recent years although they weren’t ever seen in the past.
It was noted that fish are getting skinner.
Water quality and health of the fish was a concern in the area that have been used by industry, but also there are five abandoned mine sites in that region, and when the companies left, they abandon equipment on the ice, when the ice melted the equipment sunk to the bottom of the lake and remains there.
Freeze-up and break-up times are becoming unpredictable and people are unable to plan as they have in the past cause the ice is melting much earlier in the year, affecting both travel and fishing.
There was general agreement that water levels in the region are also lower than in the past.
Water temperature has also increased.
Further benefits are as a result of the cross-cultural research camp involved the fact that a group of youth from the five communities of the Sahtú Region held a number of youth caucus meetings at the camp to address Tracking Change themes and plan an on-the-land school-based camp for youth that would provide opportunities to learn the skills required for harvesting. The main objective of these caucus meetings was also to create a network for youth around the Sahtú which gives them opportunities to develop ideas, activities, and structures that will help them build their connections to each other and their culture their way. The youth emphasized the importance of learning from their own elders about Dene values, identity, language, and culture.
2017 - Tulit’a Got’ine Traditional Knowledge: The Impact of Climate Change on Fishing Livelihoods
Fishing is an important livelihood activity for many northern indigenous communities, especially within the Sahtu. However, ongoing climate-related changes are raising newfound concerns about the future of fishing and fishing livelihoods. In 2016, Deline Got’ine community members participated in a pilot year with the Tracking Change Project, which focused on possible environmental changes in and around the Great Bear Lake region. In 2017, research for the Tracking Change project will be organized around documenting change on the Mackenzie River from the perspective of Tulit’a Got’ine. Through hands-on activities, participants will share and interpret traditional knowledge about the changing ecology of water and fishing livelihoods on the Mackenzie River. Semi-structured interviews will be conducted by a graduate student in order to explore the climate change-related impacts on water, fish, fish health, as well as well-being.
2018 - Keeping the K’áhsho Got’ı̨nę Fishing Livelihood Strong for the Future
Fish has always been a food staple for communities of the Sahtú region, available when other luxury foods like caribou and moose are scarce. However, ongoing climate-related changes are raising newfound concerns about the future of fishing and fishing livelihoods. In 2016, Délı̨nę Got’ı̨nę community members participated in a pilot year with the Tracking Change project which focused on possible environmental changes in and around the Great Bear Lake region. In 2017, Leon Andrew led a fish camp on Tulı́t’a Got’ı̨nę. Through hands-on activities, participants shared and interpret traditional knowledge about the changing ecology of water and fishing livelihoods on the Dǝhogá (Mackenzie River). In the summer of 2018, similar questions will be explored during the Lafferty family’s annual fish camp downriver in the K’áhsho Got’ı̨nę District, with an emphasis on changing approaches to cross-generational education practices for maintaining necessary knowledge and skills in fish harvesting, preservation, and sharing. The design of the camp including elders, adults, and youth is in part derived from discussions at a recent elder’s gathering on the land where middle-aged people explained the sense of loss that they feel having been deprived of their Dene education as residential school victims. K’áhsho Got’ı̨nę filmmaker Anne Marie Jackson will document the project in conjunction with the National Centre for Collaboration in Indigenous Education documentation project (www.nccie.ca).