Ni Hat’ni Dene Program

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A Ni Hat’ni Dene Crew member surveys a visiting kayaker on the East Arm – photo by Julian Morse

Through the Ni Hat’ni Dene (Dene Watchers of the Land) Program, we are building a network of Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation (LKDFN) members, young and old, who will work “on-the-ground” and eventually in all seasons, serving as the stewards of Thaidene Nene.   The program, established in 2008, is modeled on the Haida Watchmen Program and builds on a decade of previous community monitoring activities.

The goals of the Ni Hat’ni Dene Program include:

  • maintaining the integrity of cultural sites and the natural beauty within Thaidene Nene,
  • hosting and providing interpretive tours for visitors in the area,
  • monitoring and documenting visitor activity, cultural features, and environmental/wildlife values, and
  • transmitting cultural and scientific knowledge to younger generations.
    Ni Hat'ne Dene

    A Ni Hat’ne Dene Crew conducts water sampling – photo by Julian Morse

Each of two Ni Hat’ni Dene crews, made up of two adults and two-three youth, work two-week rotations on the East Arm of Great Slave Lake during the summers, practising a traditional subsistence lifestyle, taking care of important sites, conducting environmental monitoring, and interacting with visitors to this spectacular part of Thaidene Nene.

For eight summers, we have run the Ni hat’ni Dene Program at important traditional sites within Thaidene Nene — Kache (Reliance), the heart of Thaidene Nene; Kaldele (Talthelei Narrows); and Pekanatui Point: the gateways to Thaidene Nene. In 2013, the program focussed on building the capacity of our people to monitor environmental change, communicate with Thaidene Nene users, and maintain strong records, including water quality and fish sampling data. In 2014, we focused on water quality and fish sampling around the East Arm, and were based closer to Lutsel K’e due to the intense forest fire season, allowing us to include more community members in our activities, including children.

Check out this 2016 publication: About Ni Hat’ni Dene by Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation

Ni Hat'ni Crew members sampling lake trout - photo by Erica Janes

Ni Hat’ni Crew members sampling lake trout – photo by Erica Janes

With our vision guiding establishment of Thaidene Nene, we have a unique opportunity to build on the Ni Hat’ni Dene Program. In the future, we hope to grow the Program by:

  • Expanding  the program into the winter, working with partners on land-based caribou monitoring,
  • Expanding the network of Ni Hat’ni Dene sites throughout Thaidene Nene,
  • Increasing sampling parameters for water and fish, and
  • Feeding monitoring data into decision-making about the cultural and ecological integrity of the region.

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