Guardians of Great Bear Lake
Mary-Anne Neal, Associate Faculty with the School of Education and Technology, works with the Dene people in the Sahtu region of the Northwest Territories. Great Bear Lake and the people of Deline are the focus of a New York Times article about the last truly pristine freshwater lake on earth.
Great Bear Lake is the largest lake entirely within the borders of Canada and the world’s largest mass of cold fresh water. Four times the size of Prince Edward Island, the lake’s diverse ecoregions provide habitat for a wide range of plants, animals and fish. Wildlife species include barren ground caribou, moose, grizzly bear, musk-ox, fox, beaver, marten, mink, muskrat, lynx, wolverine, arctic hare, wolf and many others. More than thirty different species of waterfowl are found on and around this massive body of water. Most important of all is the passion of the Sahtu Dene to maintain this precious ecosystem for the generations to come.
Water is the key to the Sahtu Dene culture and identity. Other parts of the world are now turning their gaze to the pristine water and massive mineral resources of the Great Bear Lake watershed. The people of Deline believe that the Great Bear Lake watershed is not just part of their own natural and cultural heritage – they believe it belongs to all Canadians and indeed the world. This means that protecting the lake and its watershed is our collective responsibility. As diligent stewards of the earth, how might we conserve the ecological and cultural integrity of this jewel?
Photo credit: Christopher Miller for The New York Times