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.
Rebecca Plotner’s enthusiasm for the Collaborative is infectious: “I really think [the Collaborative] is wonderful…Everyone who is working on it is really great with many good ideas…And the programs being supported are awesome!” And she should know. Rebecca, who works for the Dominion Diamond Corporation, has been involved with the Collaborative since it was little more than an idea. She recalls early meetings with Kyla Kakfwi-Scott (GNWT Health and Social Services) and Steve Ellis (Tides Canada), two of the driving forces behind the Collaborative: “It started off with three or four of us hanging around a table talking about it, throwing out different ideas, and figuring out how we could get it expanded.”
Even at that early stage, Rebecca saw the potential of bringing together diverse partners from government, industry, and the non-profit sector to pool their resources and support land-based programs in the territory: “We looked to examples in the south like the Northern Manitoba Food, Culture, and Community Fund. They started out with a small amount of money, but it keeps growing and they are able to help out so many people now.” Rebecca is equally impressed with how far the NWT On The Land Collaborative Fund has come in such a short period of time: “Seeing where it started to having our first workshop to where we are today in just over two years. It has been great to see the interest [in the Collaborative] and how much people have wanted to support it. The distance we covered in that time is huge!”
Rebecca’s employer shares her enthusiasm for the Collaborative—they recently doubled their investment in the fund. In their words, Dominion Diamond is “pleased to be able to contribute to an initiative such as this, which emphasizes collaboration and partnership, enabling projects to come to a single place for funding. We believe the NWT On The Land Collaborative will be a key resource in the sustainability of on the land projects in the North.”
Rebecca is a member of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation. Although born in Illinois, she was raised in Dettah by her parents Sarah (nee Charlo) and Mark Plotner. Her grandparents are Judy (nee Betsina) Charlo the late Joe Charlo. After studying Biochemistry at the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George, Rebecca returned to Yellowknife.
In 2010, Rebecca was hired as a Community Relations Advisor Trainee with BHP Billiton. She was attracted to the people-oriented nature of the position (“I love talking and working with people!”) and the prospect of seeing more of the territory (“I grew up in the North, but I had never been to a community that you can’t drive to.”). Six-and-a-half years later, Rebecca is a Community Development Advisor with Dominion Diamond, which acquired BHP’s interests in 2013. Dominion operates the Ekati Diamond Mine, located on Lac de Gras approximately 300 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife.
Amongst other things, Rebecca helps to administer the Ekati Plus Community Development Program. Through this program Dominion Diamond provides financial and in-kind support to innovative initiatives that have a long-lasting impact on the people and communities of the North, including on the land programs: “At the Ekati mine, we have long recognized the importance of on the land activities, Traditional Knowledge (TK), and providing opportunities for young people and other community members to learn from their Elders and each other.” The mining corporation’s funding priorities include traditional knowledge activities, youth education, literacy initiatives, and healthy lifestyles. Land-based programs have the potential to satisfy all of these objectives.
Rebecca, for her part, values programs that support children and youth spending time on the land. Growing up in Dettah, Rebecca spent a lot of time outside: swimming at the docks, fishing on the big lake, and visiting her family’s cabin. Her mom was raised on the land in Wool Bay and she made it a priority to pass along her experiences and values to her kids: “We’ve always had that connection to the land and respect for the land. It’s always been a part of my life.”
One of Rebecca’s favourite things now is to spend time at her family cabin, which is a 1.5 hour boat ride and 5km hike from Yellowknife. When she looks around Dettah today, she sees children and youth spending more time in the community and inside: “They’re not running around on the ice or going fishing on the back lakes as much. So, for me, it’s great to see programs that encourage them to get out on the land and connect them with our culture.”
When asked about the future of the Collaborative, Rebecca responded without hesitation, “I know it’s going to expand…I’m really looking forward to seeing how far it goes…and the type of impact that it’s going to have in the North. It’s going to be great.”
The NWT On The Land Collaborative depends on partners like Dominion Diamond 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).