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Participants in the Dehcho K’éhodi workshop take part in a Dene Zhatié (South Slavey) language game
Participants in the Dehcho K’éhodi workshop take part in a Dene Zhatié (South Slavey) language game

Laurier Researchers Attend Annual Dehcho K’éhodi Meeting

In 2014, Dehcho First Nations (DFN) and its member communities launched Dehcho Kéhodi. It represents an effort to reassert Dene traditions of land and water stewardship in relation to contemporary realities like climate change and protected areas planning. Dehcho K’éhodi translates to English as “taking care of the land”. It combines Dene knowledge of the land – interweaving traditional land use, cultural practices and language – with environmental monitoring based in Western science. According to Dahti Tsetso, DFN’s Resource Management Coordinator, “our communities tell us that Dene stewardship is rooted in being on the land in a Dene way.”

Northern Water Futures (NWF) researchers are finding increasing opportunities to collaborate with Dehcho communities in support of their Dehcho K’éhodi activities. Recent efforts include helping to expose youth to water science during on-the-land activities, supporting pipeline monitoring activities, co-creating new tools to build resilience into Northern food systems, and contributing to Dehcho K’éhodi strategic planning efforts.

Laurier researchers Alex Latta and William Quinton attended the annual Dehcho K’éhodi meeting on January 17th and 18th in Ft. Simpson, providing updates on past research and consulting on upcoming projects. Says Latta, “It was a privilege to be welcomed into the workshop, not only to present our own reports but also to participate in the other activities and discussions alongside DFN community representatives.”

Latta travelled to the workshop to report on a Dehcho K’éhodi community inventory conducted last year, and to discuss next steps in research with his DFN and community-based counterparts. Latta and Tsetso were awarded a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Partnership Engage Grant to support local-level strategic planning for Dehcho K’éhodi in two communities this coming spring. “We are in discussions with the Environmental Coordinators in Kakisa and Sambaa K’e to design community-based planning activities that can inform decisions about how to expand on existing Dehcho K’éhodi efforts—this is about next steps to build long-term strategies for a region-wide Indigenous Guardians Program.”

It was last year at the same annual Dehcho K’éhodi workshop that DFN made the move to officially rename their community-based water monitors “Dehcho Guardians”, making them part of a growing network of Indigenous Guardians across Canada. The Dehcho Guardians work with the federally funded Aboriginal Aquatic Resource and Oceans Management Program to conduct water quality sampling, but increasingly they are taking on other roles as well—like assisting with on-the-land camps, where youth interact with elders and harvesters to learn land-based skills along with Dene culture and language.

According to Latta, the community-based Dehcho K’éhodi planning processes in Kakisa and Sambaa K’e will engage a cross-section of community members, with the Dehcho Guardians playing an important role. “We want these processes to be driven by the local knowledge and experience that is already there. As a researcher, I’m really just a facilitator.” Latta will work closely with DFN staff member Robyn McLeod to draw together the results of the community-based activities into draft plans, which will then go back to the communities for further input.

Latta concludes his reflections on the Dehcho K’éhodi workshop by underlining the importance of NWF funding for the work he is doing in the Dehcho. “Having NWF support to engage in knowledge mobilization and relationship building is crucial for leveraging the full value of other research funds. My time at the workshop was invaluable.”

 

Photo credit: Dahti Tsetso.

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