In 2019, Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation (Łutsël K’é) designated 26,376 square kilometres (6.5 million acres) of their lands and waters including the East Arm of Tu Nedhé (Great Slave Lake) in the Northwest Territories (NWT) an Indigenous Protected Area using their own Dene laws.
“Everything that we have done is for the future. That’s what our elders used to say: yunedhé xa, which means for the future. All of this work is for future generations. We are leaving them a legacy.” (Darryl Marlowe, Chief)
After more than 50 years of advocacy for the land and their rights as Indigenous people, Łutsël K’é signed agreements with national and territorial governments (Parks Canada and the Government of the NWT). Thaidene Nëné, or “Land of the Ancestors” in Dënesųłıné, contains four protected area designations:
- “Indigenous Protected Area” under Łutsël K’é Dene law
- “National Park Reserve” under the National Parks Act
- “Territorial Protected Area” under the NWT Protected Areas Act (2019) and “Wilderness Conservation Area” under the NWT Wildlife Act.
Thaidene Nëné is a “reconciliation story…For Łutsël K’é, the relationship within Thaidene Nëné is an expression and an example of what reconciliation looks like for us.” (Steven Nitah, Łutsël K’é Chief Negotiator for Thaidene Nëné)
The traditional territory of the Łutsël K’é Dene is 200,000 km2. As Steven Nitah, former Chief of Łutsël K’é and the community’s Chief Negotiator for Thaidene Nëné, says, “We have a huge territory and with it comes huge responsibility.” The people of Łutsël K’é have a long history with Thaidene Nëné. According to Nitah, it’s “a place we’ve been managing since time immemorial.”
Initially targeted for protection by Parks Canada in 1969-70, then Chief Pierre Catholique said ‘no’ over fears that the creation of the East Arm National Park would restrict Łutsël K’é’s access to their territory. The community repeated this message many times over subsequent years. Faced with development pressure, Łutsël K’é sought out Parks Canada as a partner in the early 2000s to ensure their territory would be protected. The Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) became a partner in 2013.
Thaidene Nëné Xá Dá Yáłtı, which means “those who speak for Thaidene Nëné” in Dënesųłıné, is the board responsible for the management of the Thaidene Nëné Indigenous Protected Area.
A $30 million trust fund provides the conservation financing required for the long-term stewardship of this area by Łutsël K’é Dene.
Ni Hat’ni Dene–meaning “watchers of the land”–are the Indigenous Guardians that care for Thaidene Nëné and interact with visitors.
Learn more by downloading the Thaidene Nëné Strategic Plan