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 first in a series of profiles about the people and organizations that make the Collaborative possible. You can read the other profiles here.
Winter Haley is a self-described social butterfly, which is part of why she loves her job as an advisor in Community and External Relations at Diavik Diamond Mine: “I engage with local communities, First Nations, and government. I also support our operational teams and workforce internally, so I spend a lot time working with people.” Before this, Winter worked in the Business Improvement and Security departments—she started with Diavik in 2008. While she enjoyed both of those positions and learned a lot about day-to-day operations, her longer term goal was a position in Community Relations, in part because she wanted the opportunity to give back. Winter says, “In my current role, I am able to give back to my community and others in the NWT, by meeting with leadership and community members to understand their way of life and by engaging with them to explore ways that Diavik can support initiatives for community benefit.”
Winter is a lifelong Northerner. Born and raised in Hay River, she is Dënesųłiné and Ojibwe. A member of the Deninu Kue First Nation, Winter was raised, in part, by her Chipewyan-speaking great grandparents, Ernest and Mary Paulette. Mary and Ernest lived a traditional lifestyle. Winter recalls coming home to a full moose spread out on the kitchen floor or a bag of rabbits sitting on the counter, waiting to be prepared.
Through her work in community relations, Winter has been exposed to other traditional practices, such as raising a teepee, setting nets, dog sledding, and beading. The Collaborative provides another opportunity for Winter to connect with the land and her cultural heritage (learning journeys to funded projects are an important aspect of our work) and to create opportunities for others to do the same. Winter reflects, “Being on the land, in whatever capacity—to spend time with friends and family is a great way for people to connect, learn from each other, and to take time to reflect on what our land provides for us. Personally, it helps put things into perspective and is a healthy way to balance ourselves mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally.”
Winter’s employer has been keeping tabs on the NWT On The Land Collaborative Fund since 2014. The diamond mine is an official partner as of 2017. There were a number of things that inspired Diavik’s decision to join the Collaborative, not least of which was the scale of need: “We saw the number of applicants—more than 200, and the fact that applications came from across the territory, with almost every community represented.”
Diavik was also impressed by the structure of the Collaborative, including the vital contributions of the community advisors: “The Collaborative provides more than just financial support to recipients, it also includes regional advisors. They guide the process, bring additional resources, and have a better understanding of the needs and desires of Northern communities, which increases the capacity to deliver these important cultural and traditional programs.” The company also appreciated the fact that the Collaborative is true to its name, with all of the partners involved in all aspects of the decision-making process.
While this is the first collaborative fund that Diavik has been a part of, providing support to land-based programs is not new to the subsidiary of Rio Tinto. Since the mine opened in 2003, Diavik has been assisting a variety of community programs centred on cultural activities, education, arts, wellness, and safety in the NWT and Western Kitikmeot through their Community Contribution Program. Supporting land-based programs that promote cultural revitalization and sustainability fits well with the company’s broader commitment to being a responsible and respectful operator in the NWT.
As part of the Collaborative, Diavik is able to continue this tradition of providing support to land-based programs in local communities in a new way: “It is great for communities to have a one-stop shop for accessing support for land-based programs.” The company also recognizes the Collaborative as an important information-sharing tool for partners: “The last application review process brought programs to our attention that we weren’t aware of before. The Collaborative helps us to identify and better respond to needs in the communities we work with.”
The NWT On The Land Collaborative depends on partners like Diavik Diamond Mine 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).