First Nations Negotiator Honors Ancestors by Protecting Boreal Forest

First Nations Negotiator Honors Ancestors by Protecting Boreal Forest

This is my home land. This is where my ancestors
have always lived. I know the land well. I know where I need
to go to get what I need. I never feel out of place here. This is where I have a sense of responsibility
and a role to play here. The land is what gives us our identity as
who we are as a people, and the land is what nourishes us. It’s our fridge and our pillow. And if you
don’t take care of your fridge and your pillow, you’re going to go cold and hungry very quickly. My name is Steven Nitah. I’m from Lutselk’e, in the
Northwest Territories of Canada. We are on the east side
of the Great Slave Lake We’re about 200 kilometers by boat to
Yellowknife, the northern city of 20,000. We are part of the Dene Nation Lutselk’e is managed through the
Lutselk’e Dene Band, a band membership of 800 or so people right now. It means a place of little fish or minnows. It’s kind of deceiving really since we have some of the trophy trout the world comes to catch. Lutselk’e is a conduit that allows us to travel
into the tundra and go into the south into the boreal– and go west on the Great Slave Lake. So it’s a natural location to get us into our territories. The community is ours. We make it work, and
we feel a sense of responsibility for each other and to the land. I grew up on land. I was raised by
grandparents and great grandparents. This time of the year we would be making our way
into the boreal for the trapping season. You’d go there, and you’d survive. You’d bring
a little bit of supplies with you, but you’re depending on the land to supply you
with all the food you need. It’s the way of life that my great grandfathers lived. Thaidene Nene is an area of our territory
that identified that we want to manage using the legislation that protects the land from
industrial development. I’m the chief negotiator for Lutselk’e Dene
First Nations. I am working with a team that’s negotiating a national park reserve with Parks
Canada and also another protected area in partnership with the government
of Northwest Territories. Right behind us would be the proposed federal park. Further to the west is the proposed territorial park. And Lutselk’e will be pretty much
right in the middle of it. Thaidene Nene is different in the sense
that Lutselk’e will plan and manage the park using our own resources. and it will be a joint venture type of arrangement
between Lutselk’e and both levels of Crown, federal and territorial government, where
we will work together in the management and operations of Thaidene Nene. With Thaidene Nene, it allows us to protect
the sacred and key areas that we use. It allows us to think a little bit more
open-mindedly about development outside of Thaidene Nene. But it takes both to create an economy up here. It is a resource extractive economy. We don’t create things up here. We bring things
in. And we want to bring tourists in to create a balance, by way of a conservation economy. Thaidene Nene is designed so that people can use it,
continue to use it as they always have. We encourage visitors to come and experience
Thaidene Nene– learn who we are and how we live and use the land. It allows for our people today to feel comfort
knowing that there’s going to be land that’s going to be unspoiled for future generations
to continue their relationship with the land. I’ve worked with and lived with many elders
that created the vision of Thaidene Nene for us. And many of those have passed on. So the
ability for me to work with my community and my team to reach a successful conclusion to
the creation of Thaidene Nene means a great deal, and it’s very special. It’s the land — and it’s our culture and our
language that feeds who we are, and– that’s our gift to the mosaic of human family. That’s where would we have an input of
what’s important to us. The Northwest Territories is so special
because of the environment. The vastness of it kind of feeds the
mentality of the people. If you want to do anything, you got to do
it in a big way to get it done. And the people have accomplished
some great stuff. Lutselk’e is very happy to protect our neck
of the boreal forest — very happy to do that.

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