Łutsël K’é, NWT — Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation in the Northwest Territories has been named one of 10 winners of the 2020 Equator Prize. Awarded by the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Equator Initiative, the prestigious prize celebrates Indigenous peoples and local communities pioneering nature-based solutions to climate change and for sustainable development.
Łutsël K’é was recognized for its decades-long work to establish Thaidene Nëné—an Indigenous Protected Area, that has been protected working in concert with its Territorial and Federal governing counterparts, that spans 6.5 million acres (26,376 km2) at the transition between boreal forest and tundra. It will permanently protect the forest, tundra and freshwater systems of Tu Nedhé (Great Slave Lake).
The Equator Prize is awarded roughly every two years to recognize and advance local sustainable development solutions for people, nature, and resilient communities. This year, Łutsël K’é was selected from among nearly 600 nominations in more than 120 countries. The award winners represent global leaders who are pioneering Indigenous-led strategies for sustainably protecting, restoring, and managing ecosystems to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, help communities adapt to climate change, and create a green new economy.
Chief Darryl Marlowe said: “The protection and stewardship of Thaidene Nëné is the sacred responsibility of the Łutsël K’e Dene First Nation, as passed down to us through the generations from our elders. Achieving the protection of Thaidene Nëné for the Łutsël K’e Denesǫłine it is a decades-long dream, and a critical step towards ensuring our way of life can be maintained and shared with all Canadians.”
“Thaidene Nene has sustained Łutsël K’e Denesǫłine for generations. It is our responsibility to maintain the traditional teachings passed on through generations to watch over the land and continue to protect Thaidene Nëné and integrity of the land for future generations,” said Adeline Jonasson, Sub Chief and Thaidene Nëné Advisor.
Iris Catholique, Thaidene Nëné Indigenous Protected Area Manager for the Łutsël K’e Dene First Nation said: “Our Denechanie (way of life) has values, beliefs and principals for our people and to always protect the land, water, wildlife and even the stars above us. As Denesǫłine, we were always raised to follow our Dene Laws as set out in Denechanie to lead the way to the establishment of the Thaidene Nëné Protected Area, which must lead to a brighter future for our youth, and community as well as the rest of the world. Our Dene Laws have always set out to protect our lands, water and wildlife. We invite all those that wish to see it to come visit our pristine protected area and see and enjoy our beautiful territory.”
“Thaidene Nene demonstrates that through vision, unity and a great bunch of friends, a small Dene village can change the world”, Steven Nitah, Łutsël K’e Dene First Nation Thaidene Nëné Chief Negotiator proclaimed. “It brings together our vision for land protection, Indigenous sovereignty, and sustainable economic futures. It shows the world how we fulfill our responsibility today for children’s future tomorrow, just like the Elders wanted.”
Łutsël K’é Dene First Nations acknowledges and thanks all its supporters and partners and funders to make the creation of Thaidene Nëné Protected Area a reality.
Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation will be recognized with the Equator Prize winners at a virtual ceremony in September 2020. To learn more about Thaidene Nëné and the precedent-setting model of Indigenous co-governance, visit landoftheancestors.ca.