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 (email@example.com).