(For Immediate Release)
NWT – February 25, 2018
For the second year in a row, the NWT On The Land Collaborative will distribute 1 million dollars in grants to 48 projects across the territory that connect NWT residents with land, culture, and community.
“The continued success of the Collaborative is a testament to the Partners’ willingness and commitment to working together, and the dedication of communities and organizations to delivering programs that renew and strengthen relations to the land,” says Tides Canada representative Steve Ellis, who is also one of the founding members of the Collaborative.
The outcomes of on the land programming are as numerous as they are varied, but one thing is certain: they support the health and wellbeing of communities, families, and individuals, and are vital to healthy ecosystems and economies in the North. Since it was founded in 2015, the Collaborative has distributed more than 3 million dollars to 166 projects in every region of the NWT.
“Grants from the On The Land Collaborative have allowed the school to develop what has become an annual canoe trip on Tsııgèhnjık. This trip has reconnected the school and community with this historical waterway. While the grants provided the seed money, the school and community came together to ensure the youth understood the importance of their role as stewards of the river. As a school we are forever indebted to the Collaborative, without their funding this trip would have remained a wistful dream. It took the initial grant in 2016 to start the conversation,” says Sonia Gregory, principal of Chief Paul Niditchie School in Tsııgehtchıc.
2019 grants range between $2,500 and $60,000. The recipients are primarily Indigenous governments, schools, and non-governmental organizations. Small grant recipients include an ice fishing program hosted by the Tuktoyaktuk Elders Society and a winter camp for students at Jean Wetrade School in Gametì. Medium-sized grants will allow the Children First Society in Inuvik to continue to expand its First Steps on the Land Program and make it possible for the Ka’a’gee Tu First Nation to organize a canoe trip for youth and Elders. Large grants have been awarded to the Délı̨nę Got’ı̨nę Government to support the Tsá Tué Water Guardians Program and to Pehdzeh Kı First Nation for an immersive language camp at Fish Lake. In addition to financial support, funded projects may also receive equipment, training, and program support.
This past fall, the Collaborative was celebrated with a Premier’s Award for Collaboration for “effectively generating new ideas with practical applications” and “collaboration between the GNWT, NGOs, and Indigenous governments” that “recognizes, celebrates, and transmits traditional knowledge.”
Program Lead, Northern Canada
Director, On the Land Programs
NWT Recreation and Parks Association
The NWT On The Land Collaborative was honoured to have been named as a recipient of a 2018 Premier's Award for Collaboration. Since its inception in 2015, the Collaborative has distributed over 2 million dollars in grants to 118 on the land projects across the NWT.
The citation read, "This team has effectively generated new ideas with practical applications through the OTL program, which recognizes, celebrates, and transmits traditional knowledge supported through collaboration between the GNWT, NGOS, and Indigenous governments."
On hand to receive the award from Premier Bob McLeod at the ceremony on November 29, 2018, were (left to right): Winter Bailey (Rio Tinto Diavik Diamond Mine), Susan Ross (Gwıch’ın Tribal Council), Kyla Kakfwi Scott (GNWT, Health and Social Services), Misty Ireland (Dehcho First Nations), Rebecca Plotner (Dominion Diamond Mines), and Sarah Dennis (GNWT, Environment and Natural Resources). The others partners named in the citation were Stephen Ellis (Tides Canada), Jess Dunkin (NWT Recreation and Parks Association), John B. Zoe (Tłı̨chǫ Government), and Meghan Etter (Inuvilauit Regional Corporation).
Máhsı to Angela Gzowski for the lovely photos from the event and congratulations to the other recipients!
This year, the NWT On The Land Collaborative will distribute $1 million dollars in grants to 48 projects across the territory that connect NWT residents with their land, culture, and community.
“Four years ago when the Collaborative was just an idea, I never imagined in such a short time we’d have a million dollars in the bank to put towards programming,” remarks Meghan Etter, the Community Advisor for the Inuvialuit Settlement Region. Community Advisors are appointed by Indigenous governments in each region to serve as representatives for the Collaborative. They provide on-the-ground support to projects throughout the process, while also assisting in the selection of recipients and in providing strategic direction to the Collaborative.
The outcomes of on the land programming are as numerous as they are varied, but one thing is certain: they support the health and wellbeing of communities, families, and individuals, and are vital to healthy ecosystems and economies in the North.
This is the third year the Collaborative has been administering grants to land-based initiatives in the NWT. In year one, the Collaborative gave out $381,850 to 35 projects. Last year, the pot of $634,845 was spread across 35 projects. The average grant amount continues to grow from almost $11,000 in 2016 to just over $18,000 in 2017 to almost $21,000 per project this year. This year also marks an increase in the number of projects receiving full funding. More than half of the successful applicants were fully funded. This is an important marker of success for the Collaborative, which is dedicated to making it easier and less time consuming for organizations and communities to access funds for land-based programs.
As in previous years, there is a wide range of grant amounts and project types. Small grant recipients include an ice fishing program in Whatì and a land- and culture-based retreat for LGBTQ+ students and their allies in the South Slave. Medium-sized grants will allow the Ulukhaktok Community Corporation to run a summer Inuinnaqtun camp for young people in their community and Chief Julius School in Teetł’it Zheh to immerse students in traditional Gwich’in culture while travelling on Teetł’it Gwinjik (Peel River). Large grants have been awarded to the Dehcho K’ehodi Stewardship & Guardian Program and the Tulít’a Dene Band to bring elders and youth together for a walking journey along traditional Shúhtagot’ine trails.
In addition to financial support, funded projects may also receive access to equipment, training, and program support.
Program Lead, Northern Canada
Director, On the Land Programs
NWT Recreation and Parks Association
The NWT On The Land Collaborative is a collective of partners from government, industry, philanthropy, and beyond, working together to support land-based programs and projects in the NWT. Each of these partner organizations has a representative that participates in quarterly meetings and annual funding decisions. This is the thirteenth in a series of profiles of the people and organizations that make the Collaborative possible. You can read the other profiles here.
Angela Young and Jackie Siegel are roommates, colleagues in the Indigenous Languages and Education Secretariat, and, now, co-representatives for the Secretariat on the NWT On The Land Collaborative (though they assured me that they don’t actually spend that much time together). The two even share a job title, Co-ordinator, although they have different backgrounds and responsibilities within the division. Angela, a “recovering teacher,” supports the delivery of Indigenous culture and language programming in schools through curriculum development and training; Jackie, who has a background in public health, supports monitoring and evaluation initiatives.
Both Jackie and Angela are relatively new to Yellowknife. Jackie was drawn north from his hometown of Vancouver by a job with the Department of Education, Culture, and Employment (ECE). He only intended to stay a year. Three years later, he is still here with no intention of leaving. If you’ve attended any events organized by NWT Pride, then you’ve likely crossed paths with Jackie. He served as the organization’s President for two years. As with many new arrivals to the North, Jackie has expanded his repertoire of outdoor activities since relocating to Yellowknife: “I picked up canoeing since moving here. I’ve given up car camping for canoe camping, which has been exciting!” His goal for this winter is put his new cross country skis to use.
Angela, who also hails from British Columbia, moved to Yellowknife in 2015 after 13 years in Inuvik. For a decade, she was an English teacher at Samuel Hearne/East Three Secondary. She also spent two years working as the Literacy Coordinator for the Beaufort Delta Educational Council. Leaving the Delta was bittersweet. In addition to the relationships she developed with students and community members while in Inuvik, Angela formed a strong bond with the land through time spent at camps throughout the Delta. Ultimately, it was the vision and purpose of the Assistant Deputy Minister for Education and Culture that drew her to Yellowknife. For Rita Mueller, work at ECE headquarters is another way of serving and supporting the territory’s schools, students, and communities. One of the things she loves about her new community are the many wonderful yoga studios and instructors.
Angela and Jackie’s worlds collided in 2015 with the creation of the Indigenous Languages and Education Secretariat (at that time known as the Aboriginal Languages Secretariat). ILES (pronounced “isles”) is tasked with “support[ing] the preservation, promotion, and revitalization of Indigenous languages throughout the NWT.” It is a misconception that the Secretariat, which is housed in ECE, is primarily concerned with supporting language learning in schools. To the contrary, almost half of ILES funding is funnelled through Indigenous governments and non-profits to support grassroots language initiatives.
Increasingly, Indigenous language education programs are taking place on the land, a reflection, Angela observes, of the deep connections between Indigenous languages and the land: “Most Indigenous people would say that the language comes from the land, so language teachers, language champions, and Elders always advocate for learning on the land. An immersion camp is the gold standard for a language experience.”
Members of the Secretariat have been following the Collaborative since it was created in 2015. Existing funding arrangements, however, prevented the division’s participation. A newly minted agreement with the federal Department of Heritage has changed this; as of fall 2017, ILES is officially a funding partner of the NWT On The Land Collaborative.
For the Secretariat, the Collaborative, while still relatively new, is attractive because it “has a system in place.” By taking advantage of this existing structure, ILES is able to ensure that a greater percentage of their funds are directed towards programming rather than administration. Of particular value are the Community Advisors, who, in addition to being an invaluable support for prospective applicants, are the eyes and ears of the Collaborative in their regions. As Angela notes, “The Community Advisors are a unique and invaluable aspect of the Collaborative, offering funding partners a window onto the programs and activities that are happening in their region.”
Equally attractive to ILES are the relationships that the Collaborative has built and strengthened over the last three years with a diverse collection of organizations and programs across the territory. Not only will tapping into this network give the Secretariat a better understanding of the language revitalization components of land-based programming, but it will also allow ILES to extend their reach and diversify the recipients of their support.
The Collaborative, for its part, is happy to have representatives from Education, Culture, and Employment at the table, especially given the number of applications received over the last two years from schools. In 2016, the Collaborative applications were submitted by 38 of the territory’s 49 schools. This year, almost a third of the grant requests came from educational institutions.
The Collaborative and grant recipients will benefit from the expertise that Jackie, Angela, and their colleagues bring to the table. Successful grant recipients will have access to ILES staff, including linguists, evaluators, and curriculum specialists. With the participation of the Secretariat in the Collaborative, more land-based projects with language revitalization as a primary focus will be supported. Jackie and Angela are also hopeful that the involvement of ILES will encourage more programs to make language revitalization a core component of their activities.
The NWT On The Land Collaborative depends on partners like the Indigenous Languages and Education Secretariat (ILES) to support land-based initiatives in the NWT. If your organization is interested in becoming a partner, please contact Steve Ellis (email@example.com).
The NWT On The Land Collaborative is a collective of partners from government, industry, philanthropy, and beyond, working together to support land-based programs and projects in the NWT. Each of these partner organizations has a representative that participates in quarterly meetings and annual funding decisions. This is the twelfth in a series of profiles of the people and organizations that make the Collaborative possible. You can read the other profiles here.
Tracey Williams arrived to our meeting with a flat square mason jar labelled, “Yellowknife Homegrown Herbal.” “A little goes a long way,” she remarked about the tea, with a smile and her signature laugh. It is just like Tracey to share a little something from her garden. Anyone who has spent time with the animated expat knows she is passionate about food and food security, but especially food security in Indigenous communities. Food, she believes, “is a lifeline to the land, culture, and healing,” a means through which Indigenous communities can “regain what has been lost to the traumas of the colonization process.”
In addition to being an avid gardener and advocate, Tracey is the new face of TNC Canada in the territory; she was hired as the Northern Conservation Lead in late February. TNC Canada (not to be confused with the Nature Conservancy of Canada, which is a separate though kindred organization) is the Canadian affiliate of the world’s largest conservation organization, The Nature Conservancy. TNC Canada, as Tracey explains, is much more than a conservation organization, however: “We are interested in supporting sustainable communities, where people and nature are connected, and we are building the future around that connection.”
TNC Canada has had a presence in the North for almost a decade. Initially, the organization provided technical support to the NWT Protected Areas Strategy, a community-based approach to conservation planning aimed at creating a network of protected areas across the territory. Much of TNC Canada’s focus in the intervening years has centred on supporting Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation in the creation of the Thaidene Nëné National Park Reserve (Thaidene Nëné means “land of our ancestors” in Dënesųłiné). TNC Canada has also provided support to the community’s Ni Hat’ni Dene program. Ni Hati’ni, which means “watchers of the land,” is an Indigenous Guardian program modelled on the Haida Watchmen. Tracey’s task in the coming weeks and months will be to expand TNC Canada’s role in the territory.
TNC Canada has been involved with the Collaborative since the early days. Tracey’s predecessor attended the initial meetings in 2014 and TNC Canada was one of the first organizations to sign on as a funding partner. Like other partners, TNC Canada was attracted to the Collaborative because it meets an important need in the territory. As Tracey notes, “On the land programming, in all of the communities in the Northwest Territories, is something everyone wants to be doing. It’s something that everyone wants to be happening in their communities.” And so it made sense for TNC Canada to get involved with an initiative committed to removing barriers to spending time on the land.
TNC Canada’s support for land-based programming and their participation in the Collaborative was one of the things that drew Tracey to the organization: “Since moving to the NWT 15 years ago, everything I’ve done has had an on the land focus. That’s been my lens. I really like the fact that TNC Canada is not just supporting a land trust initiative, they want to support people, their place in nature, and their connection to the land.” Tracey believes strongly that on the land programs are “vital to defining a pathway to sustainability for the future of the Northwest Territories.”
Tracey, who hails from the Chicago area, first came north to paddle. (She and her partner, Steve, have at various points travelled the Back, Kazan, Coppermine, and Thelon Rivers.) It wasn’t long before Tracey made the move permanently, relocating from Sante Fe, New Mexico, where she had been working in land restoration and watershed management, to Łutsël K’é, where she took a job coordinating a traditional knowledge project on East Arm fisheries. In the ensuing twelve years, Tracey became an important part of the community fabric, involved in everything from the community garden and school board to environmental assessment interventions and community radio. In 2013, Tracey, Steve, and their three kids relocated to Yellowknife.
It was while living in Łutsël K’e that Tracey began her apprenticeship as a moosehide tanner under the tutelage of a trusted and respected local Elder, whom Tracey is now fortunate to call a friend: “I started out as her lackey. I was there to carry water or start fires or attend to the smokehouse, whatever needed to be done. Over time I realized I really liked hide tanning.” With the arrival of twins in 2011, Tracey’s time for tanning dramatically decreased. She makes a point, however, of returning to Łutsël K’é every June for a hide tanning camp to work on one of her in-progress hides. (Side note: the Łutsël K’é Women’s Group’s Annual Hide Tanning Camp is one of 35 grant recipients for 2017).
Other members of the Collaborative see the positive outcomes of land-based programming in terms of the wellbeing of participants or of the health of the land. Tracey brings a new perspective to the table: “Dene people, Inuit people, Indigenous people all have foodways.” Tracey recognizes the importance of those foodways to Indigenous identity, wellbeing, and sovereignty, hence why she thinks supporting the continuance of those foodways through the Collaborative is so important. As with other outcomes, food security doesn’t need to be an explicit objective of land-based programs to support Indigenous foodways and food sovereignty: “If you have an on the land project, inevitably, you will have a duck, a goose, a caribou head, a moose, a trout, whatever is in season, over the fire. You may go berry picking. In this way, on the land programming naturally supports food security regardless of whether or not we acknowledge it.”
The NWT On The Land Collaborative depends on partners like TNC Canada to support land-based initiatives in the NWT. If your organization is interested in becoming a partner, please contact Steve Ellis (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Today, the NWT On The Land Collaborative releases its second annual report. The 2017 Report shares highlights from the past year, including new partners, the first annual learning trip, and the creation of a community of practice for land-based programs with a mental health focus.
The NWT On The Land Collaborative was founded in fall 2015 to support programs that connect NWT residents with their land, culture, and community. Since that time, the Collaborative has provided 70 projects across the territory with over a million dollars in funds. Grant recipients also have access to equipment, training, expertise, and other resources.
The 2017 Report features seven successful land-based projects, one from each region, that received grants in 2016. These include the Reviving Trails project organized by the Dedats’eetsaa (Tłįchǫ Research and Training Institute); the Feeding Our Spirits project, an initiative of Trailcross; and East Three Secondary School’s Wood for Elders program.
The report also details the allocation of funds for 2017. This year, grants range from $3,000 to support a canoe trip for grade nine students in Fort Smith to $60,000 for healing and wellness camps for youth in Rádeyįlįkóé (Fort Good Hope). Other funded projects include Trails on the Land, a 10-day trip beginning in Tuktoyaktuk that will take youth and elders through the traditional hunting territory of their ancestors; a land-based youth mentorship project coordinated by the Deh Gah Gotine First Nation; a boating program for Tłįchǫ youth that teaches traditional knowledge and skills; and a hide tanning camp in Łutsel K’e.
Program Lead, Northern Canada
Director, On the Land Programs
NWT Recreation and Parks Association
The NWT On The Land Collaborative is a collective of partners from government, industry, philanthropy, and beyond, working together to support land-based programs and projects in the NWT. Each of these partner organizations has a representative that participates in quarterly meetings and annual funding decisions. This is the eleventh in a series of profiles of the people and organizations that make the Collaborative possible. You can read the other profiles here.
John B. Zoe describes his current responsibilities as a Senior Advisor to the Tłı̨chǫ Ndek’àowo (Tłı̨chǫ Government) in this way: “I go to lend support to keep things moving. Sometimes people need to be reminded of their strengths and responsibilities.” John B. uses the same mentorship skills in his role as the Community Advisor for the Tłı̨chǫ region with the NWT On The Land Collaborative. Community Advisors are appointed by Indigenous governments in each region to serve as their representative to the Collaborative. They are available to applicants throughout the process, while also assisting in the annual selection of grant recipients.
As valuable as John B.’s mentorship skills are to the Collaborative are his experiences developing and supporting land-based programs in the Tłı̨chǫ. He has played a pivotal role in the creation and ongoing success of Wha Dǫ Ehtǫ K’è (Trails of Our Ancestors), an annual canoe trip that keeps Tłı̨chǫ history and culture alive by retracing traditional routes. In the early 1990s, John B. spent his summers travelling through Tłı̨chǫ territory with Elders, including the late Harry Simpson, and archaeologist Tom Andrews: “We were gathering stories, but there was no one to share them with. We didn’t see our own people travelling these rivers. So we began organizing canoe trips for youth so they could travel with the Elders and hear the stories.”
The first Trails trip ran in 1995. Over the course of 15 days, five 22-foot canoes paddled from John B.’s home community of Behchokǫ̀ to Gamètì, arriving in time for the Tłı̨chǫ Annual Gathering. This summer marks the 23rd anniversary of the program. In mid-July, flotillas of canoes from each of the four Tłı̨chǫ communities will set out for the Gathering, which is scheduled to take place in Behchokǫ̀. Wha Dǫ Ehtǫ K’è has not only continued, it has prospered, John B. shares: “Each year, we receive more applications than we have seats in the canoes!”
To understand the cultural importance of these canoe trips, you have to know something about the importance of stories for the Tłı̨chǫ. Stories contain knowledge about how to be Tłı̨chǫ and live in respectful relation to the land. Stories are not disembodied; they are tied to specific places. John B., borrowing from Elder Harry Simpson, likens the landscape to a book: “The pages are your travels.” To understand the book’s teachings, in other words, you need to be on the land, hearing the stories in the places that they belong. A recent history of Wha Dǫ Ehtǫ K’è captures it best: “By travelling traditional trails, which link places like beads on a string, Tłı̨chǫ youth are told stories as each place is visited.”
The Trails trips, like land-based programs more generally, are about looking back in order to move forward. By returning to older ways of doing things, in this case travelling by canoe in community and hearing the stories, the hope is that youth will be grounded in the Tłı̨chǫ way of life and able to chart a way forward for themselves as individuals and as a people. If Tłı̨chǫ youth are to “be strong like two people,” a vision first articulated by Chief Jimmy Bruneau, but which is best known in the words of Elizabeth Mackenzie, they need this education on the land alongside Elders and community leaders.
While participants experience the canoe trips in their own way as individuals, ultimately Wha Dǫ Ehtǫ K’è is about collective experience and collective knowledge. John B. explains it this way: “If somebody from this group of 100 canoeists learns something it will stay with them and when it’s time to fill the gap, they will fill that gap. The more people that have these bits and pieces of information, they become an army of knowledgeable people about our collective story.” It’s hard to ignore the parallels with the Collaborative and the value that each individual member through their knowledge and experiences brings to the collective.
While the Community Advisors share certain responsibilities, they all approach their role in different ways, depending on their personalities and the needs of their region. For John B., being a Community Advisor is about reminding Tłı̨chǫ people and communities of their strengths and abilities, not the least of which is the knowledge of the land, the animals, relationships, and governance: “Our communities have this knowledge, held by our professors and they seek to pass on this information.” Land-based programs that engage Elders are vital to this work of reviving the old ways and ensuring continued stability for the future.
More than once during our conversation, John B., in reference to the Tłı̨chǫ, noted, “Our work is to acknowledge what was there before and use it as a basis for application in a modern way.” One example of this meeting of old and new is the Reviving Trails Project, which seeks to revitalize ancient Tłı̨chǫ canoe routes. Most recently, an 18-person group, which included John B., travelled the Mowhi Trail by canoe from Behchokǫ̀ to the barrenlands and back to Wekweètì, plotting their route and important cultural places with GPS. Not only did the trip improve the conditions of the trails and result in a digital map of the route, making it easier for future travellers, but it also enabled the sharing of stories about the places visited along the way and generated new experiences for younger Tłı̨chǫ on their territory.
The NWT On The Land Collaborative depends on partners like Tłı̨chǫ Ndek’àowo (Tłı̨chǫ Government) to support land-based initiatives in the NWT. If your organization is interested in becoming a partner, please contact Steve Ellis (email@example.com).
The NWT On The Land Collaborative is a collective of partners from government, industry, philanthropy, and beyond, working together to support land-based programs and projects in the NWT. Each of these partner organizations has a representative that participates in quarterly meetings and annual funding decisions. This is the tenth in a series of profiles of the people and organizations that make the Collaborative possible. You can read the other profiles here.
Ask any member of the NWT On The Land Collaborative about Sarah True, the Collaborative Administrator, and invariably they will tell you about her binders and spreadsheets. Sarah is an organizational wizard. Her management of the application process and her facility with Microsoft Excel has made the grantmaking cycle infinitely easier for the partners over the last two years. Sarah’s passion for organization goes beyond columns and tabs. She also played a pivotal role in arranging last year’s very successful learning trip. In case you’re getting the wrong impression of Sarah, she has a good sense of humour and is lots of fun.
According to her business cards, Sarah is the Regional Environmental Assessment Coordinator for the North Slave office of the Government of the Northwest Territories’ department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR). For the last year or so, however, Sarah has been on secondment to ENR headquarters, where she has been working on a number of projects, namely developing traditional economy and country foods strategies, updating the government’s traditional knowledge policy, and developing an action plan for the same, all while managing the affairs of the Collaborative.
Sarah was first employed by ENR as a summer student, coordinating fire ecology camps in the South Slave. In 2006, she returned to the department, working first as a Regional Planner and later, as the Regional Environmental Assessment Coordinator for the South Slave. Two years later, she relocated to the North Slave office in Yellowknife. In addition to positions with ENR, Sarah has worked with the NWT Métis Association, helping to develop environmental education materials for children; the South Slave Research Institute (ARI) as a research assistant ; and NWT Fire and Parks Canada as a radio operator and fire clerk. (Sarah was able to put both her GIS skills and her fire experience to work during the notorious 2014 fire season.)
As her resume makes clear, Sarah is a jack of all trades. She is also a lifelong learner. She has four diplomas in Integrated Resource Management; Wildlife, Fisheries, Grasslands, and Recreation; Forestry; and Management Studies. Today, Sarah is at work on a Bachelor of Arts in Sustainable Business Practices.
In 2015, Sarah was approached by Fred Mandeville and Erin Kelly, at that time the Superintendent of the North Slave Region and Assistant Deputy Minister of ENR respectively, about working with the Collaborative. The request came at just the right time; Sarah, who clearly has an appetite for variety, had been looking for new experiences in her professional life. Not to mention, she has a personal passion for land-based programs (more on that in a moment).
Sarah joined the NWT On The Land Collaborative at the beginning of the pilot year. She played a central role in establishing the administrative materials and systems that have guided the Collaborative over the last two years. Sarah’s position as the Collaborative Administrator is unique amongst the partners. She describes herself as a “middle person,” providing support in different ways to applicants, grant recipients, funders, and community advisors.
Sarah believes strongly in the Collaborative’s mission to get people out on the land, but particularly its commitment to supporting community-based initiatives: “It’s not one thing that we’re trying to give to everyone. It is communities telling us what they need, whether it’s resources, financial support, advice.” Beyond making it easier for people to spend time on the land in the way that they want through the provision of funds and resources, Sarah values the way that the Collaborative has helped to make connections between funders and projects, between different regions and communities, and, in some cases, between individuals and organizations within a single community.
Growing up in Fort Smith, Sarah spent significant amounts of time on the land, surrounded by a large extended Cree and Métis family. Sarah’s eldest (she is a mum to three) had a very similar childhood, often spending weeks at a time at their cabin with family, learning to hunt, trap, and fish. Today he is confident and at home in the bush, a trait that Sarah attributes to this early education.
Sarah is impressed with the variety and creativity of approaches to land-based programming exhibited by grant recipients, but she has a soft spot for projects that promote intergenerational knowledge transfer: “I’d really like to see more opportunities for younger kids and for family units. Take kids out with their parents and their grandparents. I think that’s a dynamic that means more to people.” While she and her family spend less time on the land since moving to Yellowknife, they continue to enjoy camping, ice fishing, hiking, and canoeing.
The NWT On The Land Collaborative depends on partners like Environment and Natural Resources to support land-based initiatives in the NWT. If your organization is interested in becoming a partner, please contact Steve Ellis (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The NWT On The Land Collaborative is a collective of partners from government, industry, philanthropy, and beyond, working together to support land-based programs and projects in the NWT. Each of these partner organizations has a representative that participates in quarterly meetings and annual funding decisions. This is the ninth in a series of profiles of the people and organizations that make the Collaborative possible. You can read the other profiles here.
Kyla Kakfwi-Scott of Health and Social Services has the ideal slate of experiences for the NWT On The Land Collaborative. As Dechinta’s inaugural Program Director she helped to shepherd the fledgling bush university from concept paper to program delivery, so she knows the demanding cycle of applying for funding and reporting, while also trying to deliver meaningful programming. Kyla has also sat on the other side of the table as a funder: managing Ekati Diamond Mine’s community investment and Aboriginal engagement program; serving on the board of the NWT chapter of the United Way; advising the Small Change Fund; and chairing the selection committee for the Arctic Inspiration Prize. Perhaps most importantly, through her time at Dechinta and more recently through her involvement with Dene Nahjo, an NWT-based Indigenous leadership collective, Kyla has experienced the transformative power of being on the land and seen the same in others. It’s no wonder that Kyla was handpicked by Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services, Debbie Delancy, to coordinate the Collaborative, a role she shares with Steve Ellis of Tides Canada.
Kyla joined the department in May 2013, shortly after Paul Andrew, Chair of the Minister’s Forum on Addictions and Community Wellness, released the Forum’s final report, Healing Voices. The Forum, which was convened in November 2012 to hear directly from NWT residents about how best to address addictions and promote community wellness, travelled to 21 communities over four months: “What the Forum heard more than anything else during its travels is the land heals…So strong is this belief, with so many examples of its success, that the Forum is making on-the-land programming its number one recommendation.” The Forum’s findings were re-iterated in the weeks and months that followed at anti-poverty workshops, at gatherings of community representatives, and in meetings between the Minister of Health and Social Services and Indigenous governments.
The people spoke and Health and Social Services listened, devoting 1 million dollars that year to supporting land-based healing programs. It was not an insignificant amount of money. However, given the expense of on the land programs and the demand, it was inadequate in meeting community needs, so the department was looking for ways to leverage other funding. If you read Steve Ellis’s profile, you will recall the serendipitous meeting that happened between the Northern Lead for Tides Canada and the Deputy Minister in 2014 and the November 2014 meeting on funding collaboratives the two organizations co-hosted to “stimulate thinking on the art of the possible,” as Debbie describes it. Of particular interest to the Deputy Minister was the Northern Manitoba Food, Culture, and Community Collaborative, a collaborative with a provincial government at the table, which could serve as a model for a NWT-based initiative. (Engaging in these kinds of projects can be tricky for governments because of the legislative and policy frameworks that regulate the spending of public monies.) It was at that meeting that Health and Social Services officially committed to starting a collaborative fund to support land-based programs in the territory.
The collaborative model appealed for a number of reasons beyond attracting additional dollars. By offering a mechanism for government departments supporting land-based programs to talk to one another about the work they are doing, a collaborative could help to break down government silos. Likewise, a collaborative had the potential to facilitate connections within and between communities, all with the aim of “combining strengths and combining resources,” in Debbie’s words.
While there was much that was attractive about the models presented at the workshop, it has been important to both women that what was to become the NWT On The Land Collaborative reflect local priorities and ways of working. For this reason, from the beginning, community representatives have been at the table. Kyla explains, “The people who are actually applying for funding and running the programs have had a really important voice in both articulating the need for a collaborative approach to funding, but also what that approach should look like.” Through dialogue between the partners, which consist of community advisors and funders, the Collaborative will continue to evolve: “It’s not just about developing a process that will then be set in stone…It’s about continuous improvement, how we are working, how we might work differently, and how that changes over time.”
To date, both women are happy with the progress that has been made. Kyla notes, “We started with a giant leap of faith on the part of all of the partners and so our first critical measure of success is coming out of the first round, we’ve maintained all of the existing partner relationships... and we’ve brought in a couple of new partners.” Debbie adds, “It’s been very positive the engagement that we’ve had from communities and Indigenous governments. The ability to get government departments involved, as well as NGOs and industry and to get everyone to agree. We didn’t really have a lot of templates in Canada for that, so that it has been successful has been very exciting.”
While much of our interview time was taken up with discussing the history and mechanics of the Collaborative, both Kyla and Debbie have personal reasons for wanting to support land-based programming in the NWT. Debbie, who is originally from upstate New York, lived for eight years with her partner in his home community of Fort Good Hope, during which time she spent extended periods of time on the land: “I had the opportunity to experience the power of the land and to see the impact that spending time in touch with the land had on people…The land is the most powerful tool that we have to support healing at a community and individual level.”
Kyla’s response to the same question hints at the variations and complexities in the relationships that people have to the land in the NWT and also the importance of land-based programs for Indigenous youth: “My own personal connection to land has been one of needing to find it having grown up [in Yellowknife] rather than in either of the places that I would consider myself to be from…I’m trying to learn by doing and creating opportunities for myself and other people to be around that.”
The NWT On The Land Collaborative depends on partners like Health & Social Services to support land-based initiatives in the NWT. If your organization is interested in becoming a partner, please contact Steve Ellis (email@example.com).
The NWT On The Land Collaborative is a collective of partners from government, industry, philanthropy, and beyond, working together to support land-based programs and projects in the NWT. Each of these partner organizations has a representative that participates in quarterly meetings and annual funding decisions. This is the fourth in a series of profiles of the people and organizations that make the Collaborative possible. You can read the other profiles here.
Jess Dunkin’s resume is an interesting mix of two different kinds of experience: outdoor education and academia. She has instructor-level certifications in canoeing and first aid and a PhD in Canadian history. She has taught history and gender studies at Carleton University and the University of Ottawa and led canoe trips in the shield country of Northern Ontario. She has written articles for Pathways: the Ontario Journal of Outdoor Education and Histoire Social/Social History. The one thing that ties these two lives together is Jess’s love of the outdoors. Both have been valuable in her current position as Director of On the Land Programs at the NWT Recreation and Parks Association (NWTRPA) and as the NWTRPA’s representative on the NWT On The Land Collaborative.
Jess has always had a special relationship to the outdoors. She grew up on a farm in Eastern Ontario and spent part of every summer at camp and her grandparents’ cottage: “I know that I need to be outside…It’s a place where I feel more connected to myself, I feel more connected to the world around me, and I feel more connected to the people I’m with.” It was this love of the outdoors that led Jess to pursue work in outdoor education while in high school, first as a camp counsellor and later leading canoe trips. She continued to work at summer camps and outdoor centres while in university and at Teacher’s College. A love of history led her to graduate school in 2007, where she channeled her passion for the outdoors into her research, writing about girls’ summer camps and canoeing.
In 2014, Jess was wrapping up a postdoctoral fellowship at Queen’s University and looking for a next step. The academic job market was dire and there were few other opportunities for her in Ottawa. Jess had already been thinking about moving North, when she heard about the On the Land Programs Consultant position at the NWTRPA: “While I was in grad school I basically stopped paddling, I wasn’t really doing trips, I let my certifications lapse. I kind of thought I had left that life behind…When I started talking to Geoff [the NWTRPA’s Executive Director] about the job, I found myself circling back… and I was excited about that prospect.”
Even before relocating to Yellowknife, Jess understood that there were very real differences between the outdoor education that had been her bread and butter down south and the on the land programs that she would be supporting in the North: “To me, land-based programs are about revitalizing the deep connections between Indigenous people, their territories, and traditional knowledges/practices targeted by colonialism. Land-based programs heal people and communities and the territories they call home and ultimately, they nurture self-determination and the restoration of traditional forms of governance.”
Jess is keenly aware of being a non-Indigenous settler from the south in her position: “I have struggled to figure out how to do this work in a good way. I was really fortunate to be able to attend a Dechinta short course last spring and to be able to think through in a really practical way my responsibilities and my job, but it’s a process. I’m not there yet.”
In 2014, the NWTRPA was invited to be part of the collaborative funding workshop that was the precursor to the NWT On The Land Collaborative. ED Geoff Ray went on behalf of the organization: “(At this meeting) the Tides Foundation, Nature Conservancy, Health & Social Services, and others each stood up in the room and made contributions of tens of thousands, in some cases hundreds of thousands of dollars. We didn’t have money to offer, but we had a pile of experience and expertise in training and relationships to communities and organizations that do on the land programs. We offered to contribute those resources, relationships, and connections.”
That experience and those relationships come from a decade of delivering and supporting on the land programs in the NWT. Between 2007 and 2010, the NWTRPA organized the Mackenzie Youth Leadership Trip. The organization took a number of learnings from that experience, particularly around programming planning, training, and risk management, and has shared them with communities looking to offer similar programs.
Geoff believes, “One of the strengths of the Collaborative is that you have a handful or more organizations who are coming from different backgrounds and mandates. You’ve government, non-government, and corporate interests coming together to support community-based programs. There are lots of different outcomes that people are working towards but I think it’s really exciting that you can have this diverse group of people working together in such a transformative way.”
Working as the NWTRPA’s representative on the Collaborative has allowed Jess to put her diverse skills to work. When the NWTRPA first became a partner in the Collaborative in early 2016 that meant lending expertise in training. As time has gone by the NWTRPA has taken on additional roles assisting with information sharing and communications. These days, the Collaborative keeps Jess busy writing copy for the website, managing the social media accounts, and writing editorial content, such as partner profiles.
For Jess, along with everything else, being part of the Collaborative has been an invaluable learning experience: “It has exposed me to lots of other people and programs that I otherwise wouldn’t have known about. It has also just been really inspiring to hear about the amazing land-based programming happening in the territory on both a large and a small scale.” Jess says that she’s still not always comfortable in her position, but the Collaborative has provided a space where she can work in a good way, guided by strong Indigenous leadership and local expertise.
The NWT On The Land Collaborative depends on partners like the NWT Recreation and Parks Association to support land-based initiatives in the NWT. If your organization is interested in becoming a partner, please contact Steve Ellis (firstname.lastname@example.org).