This is the first in a series of profiles about the staff, leaders, and community members who are hard at work implementing Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation's vision for the Thaidene Nëné Indigenous Protected Area. You can read the other profiles here.
Joseph Catholique is a skilled land user, who is happiest when he is outside. Joseph had little interest in school as a young person. He preferred to hitch up the dogs—his grandfather, dad, and brother all had dog teams—and take them out. On his own, he would do day trips close to town. With his family, through, he travelled to the barrenlands. Living and travelling with his grandparents, John and Marie Catholique, and his parents, Judith and Pierre Catholique, Joseph learned how to be self-sufficient.
One of Joseph’s responsibilities as a senior guardian wıth Ni Hat'ni Dene, Thaidene Nëné’s Indigenous guardian program, is passing on his knowledge and skills to the junior guardians. He takes this part of his job very seriously: “Whatever I have learned, the skills I have learned from my grandfather, dad, brothers, mum, brother-in-law, sisters, I pass along. It’s important to teach the younger ones so they know. We don’t want to lose that.” In turn, Joseph is learning from the younger members of the crew. “Technology is coming up fast,” Joseph says, referring to the various tools available now for environmental monitoring. “It’s good to know how to use it to do our job.”
While Joseph loves spending time anywhere in Thaidene Nëné, Betsı̨ı̨ghıé (Utsingi Point) is a particularly special place for him. “I’ve always liked that point, since I was a kid,” he explains. Not only is it good fishing, but it is also a spiritual place. “When we pass by there on skidoo or in boats, we stop to pay the water and the land.”
Looking ahead, Joseph has three goals for his time with Ni Hat’ni Dene. First, he’d like to see a greater emphasis on using and passing along the language. Second, he’d like to see a return to using dog teams in Łutsël K’é and thinks the guardian program could provide an avenue for that. Lastly, he’d like to take a small group of young people by canoe from Łutsël K’é to Baker Lake along the Thelon River.
We are the Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation. Our vision for Thaidene Nëné is:
Nuwe néné, nuwe ch'anıé yunedhé xa (Our land, our culture for the future).
We’re working with our partners to permanently protect Thaidene Nëné—part of our
huge and bountiful homeland around and beyond the East Arm of Tu Nedhé.