Steven Nitah on the World Parks Congress
In November 2014, Steven Nitah, Chief Negotiator for the Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation for Thaidene Nene, travelled to Sydney, Australia to
attend the World Parks Congress on behalf of the LKDFN and to speak about Thaidene Nene.
Steven was very well received by the international audience, and his message helped to tell the world about Thaidene Nene, and how his community is leading one of the newest and most innovative ideas for creating and operating a protected area in a unique and vast landscape like the Northwest Territories.
Steven answered the following questions upon his return to Canada after the event last month.
Describe your involvement at the WPC, and how you were received
There were eight streams at the Congress. Each stream focused on an aspect of parks and protected areas. The streams were titled as follows;
- Reaching conservation goals
- Responding to climate change
- Improving Health and Well-Being
- Supporting Human Health
- Reconciling Development Challenges
- Enhancing Diversity & Quality of Governance
- Respecting Indigenous & Traditional Knowledge and Culture
- Inspiring a new Generation
Thaidene Nene addresses something in each of these eight streams; we were invited to present the Thaidene Nene story in Stream Seven. Our vision and objective was seen as a model, not only for what are we are creating, but also for the process we went through in terms of involving the community, led by the elders, resulting in a bottom to top approach. This was received very well by the world indigenous and conservation community.
What was the highlight of being there? And were there any challenges?
The highlight was definitely meeting new people, sharing the Thaidene Nene story and creating a global network with people that the LKDFN can continue a dalogue with. This dialogue might include the sharing of best practices as well as other knowledge, and may lead to some meaningful personal and professional relationships.
How are Australian or other international examples of Indigenous conservation efforts similar to Thaidene Nene? How are they different?
Indigenous people the world over are very similar in so many ways including beliefs and customs. Their relationship with their lands, both physical and spiritual, is as strong as ours and they are doing as much as they can within the sphere of politics of their respective countries.
We are not different, the politics that we deal with are different. Here in Canada, we are able to be more creative because of Constitutional Rights and the positive political will that exists within the current government.
What will you be telling people back home in Lutsel K’e about your time at the WPC?
Once at our annual pilgrimage to Deznethche, an elder had told us that the dominant societies of the world will require the knowledge of the Dene to save mother earth. At the time I was skeptical because I thought that the world was such a big place with so many people, and we [the Dene] are so small in numbers in comparison, how could we possibly share our knowledge with everyone all over the world?
I will tell people in Lutsel K’e that this elder knew that there were indigenous people in every corner of the world with the same knowledge as our people here in Canada, and that – as valuable as it was to be at the World Parks Congress – he did not need to a world gathering to know this.