Thaidene Nene Manager, Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation
Łutsël K’é, NWT – It is well known across the north that the Bathurst caribou herd’s population has declined by 98 percent and the herd is on the verge of collapse. To support the effective stewardship of caribou, and especially the recovery of the Bathurst caribou herd, the Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation’s Chief and Council have formally approved a community-led caribou stewardship plan called Yúnethé Xá Ɂetthën Hádi.
Based on extensive community engagement, the foundation of this plan is Łutsël K’é Dënesųłı̨né beliefs, values, and stories shared at “Caribou Talk” meetings held in the community. At Caribou Talks, Łutsël K’é elders, hunters, and monitors shared their observations of few calves and smaller groups of Bathurst caribou traveling together. One attendee shared: “In the past, every cow would have a calf. Now, it seems less than a quarter of the cows have calves.”
Currently, the plan applies to Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation members within the Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation traditional territory, including the newly established Thaidene Nëné protected areas. The plan outlines hunting policies, protocols, and activities to encourage and support respectful hunting practices based on Łutsël K’é Dënesųłı̨né values and practices.
One of the key policies in the plan is a self-imposed, two-year moratorium on hunting Bathurst caribou. “Although we do not believe that respectful, subsistence hunting has caused the decline of the caribou herds, we think the Bathurst caribou herd’s population is too low to sustain any harvesting or any more disturbances within their home range,” said Chief Darryl Marlowe. After two years, the First Nation will consider continuing the moratorium based on the best available Indigenous and scientific knowledge.
The First Nation also requests that hunters from other communities notify the First Nation’s Wildlife, Lands, and Environment Department of their plan to hunt in the Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation homeland. This information will help the First Nation be responsible stewards of the land and animals, and help ensure the safety of hunters. “People used to do this in the past. It’s a sign of respect to inform Indigenous governments of other people’s intensions to hunt in their homeland. It’s not about stopping people from coming here, it’s about making sure people are safe and respecting the animals,” said Chief Darryl Marlowe.
The Ni Hat’ni Dene Rangers will be monitoring the land, animals, and visitors, including hunters, within Thaidene Nëné and the rest of their homeland. The Dene Rangers play a critical role in embodying and promoting respectful hunting practices, recording harvest data, and documenting the health of the caribou herds. The local Wildlife, Lands, and Environment Department will also be launching several education and communication initiatives to ensure their members are aware of the policies and protocols in the plan.
The draft plan was sent to federal, territorial, and Indigenous governments for review and comments in 2019. The Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation is currently in discussions with the federal and territorial governments on how they might best collaborate to implement the plan. The Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation will also continue to work with the other Akaitcho Dene First Nations in an effort to implement similar caribou stewardship measures throughout the entire Akaitcho Territory.
In addition to implementing their plan, the Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation will continue to actively participate in caribou co-management forums and land and water use regulatory processes to protect or restore caribou habitat and populations.
If you would like a copy of the Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation’s caribou stewardship plan, entitled Yúnethé Xá Ɂetthën Hádi, please contact the manager of the Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation’s Wildlife, Lands, and Environment Department at firstname.lastname@example.org.