Dene leaders visit to RRU

  Public
By: 
Mary-Anne Neal
President Allan Cahoon met with the Dene leaders at Snequ'el'an

Historically, researchers in different disciplines from universities around the world have descended on the high Arctic to study the people and the land.  After taking pictures and interviewing the inhabitants, the scholars leave these tiny communities, return to their cities and publish their findings.  Last Monday’s visit to Royal Roads University by Dene leaders in the Sahtu Region reverses that paradigm. 

David Codzi is the president of the Ayoni-Keh Land Corporation, and Fred John Barnaby sits on the board of the K’asho Got’ine Band.  Our friendship goes back to 1971, when I lived with their families and friends in the tiny hamlet of Colville Lake, north of the Arctic Circle.  I addressed the Sahtu Secretariat last fall and quickly realized that RRU could support them in achieving their goal to find innovative ways to improve educational outcomes for Dene youth.

Our northern visitors travelled for 12,000 km round trip to see for themselves what RRU has to offer.  The warm RRU welcome quickly overcame their trepidation at being in a strange city.  Having established a personal connection with our people, our environment and our resources, David and Fred John left with great optimism for future collaboration.  They have already communicated that positive message to the NWT Premier and the NWT Minister of Education.

To find Colville Lake on the map, just follow the Mackenzie River north until you arrive at Fort Good Hope.  Turn right, go a bit north and a bit east.  There, nestled on the lake shore, you will find the tiny hamlet of about 150 people who follow a traditional lifestyle, living close to the land as they have for thousands of years, speaking their own language and following centuries-old customs.  Their unique culture, inclusive perspectives and indigenous understandings could hold the key to our shared global future.  I have a feeling we will learn at least as much from them as they will learn from us.  The future is hopeful!

Mary-Anne Neal