Adrian Nataway wanted to be a Ni Hat’ni Dene guardian because, in his words, “the land, the water, the animals, they mean everything.” “It is important,” he says, “that we are watching, that we are paying attention to how the land, the water, and the animals are doing, that we are noticing any changes.”
The Ni Hat’ni Dene crew have accomplished quite a bit since Adrian started in July 2023. “We put up seven platforms at different places in the protected area. We tore down one old cabin, did a retrofit of another cabin, and now we’re building a new cabin at Old Snowdrift. We also provided food security during the fires and evacuation by harvesting meat like muskox, moose, and rabbits, and fish, and sharing it with community members.”
Adrian attributes the guardians’ accomplishments to having such a big and knowledgeable crew. “We’ve been doing a lot of different things,” he says. “It makes it easier because there are so many hands and those hands know what they’re doing.” Adrian made a special point to say how much he likes working with people of different ages. “These young guys make you feel so energetic!”
Likewise, Adrian is appreciated by his colleagues for what he brings to the job, not least of which is his work ethic. Adrian is also a people person. He likes meeting and interacting with visitors to Thaidene Nëné. He also has a knack for fixing things. His training and experience in small engine repair often come in handy.
Adrian was raised in Łutsël K’é by his grandparents, Bruno and Marie Nataway. They taught him how to live on the land, how to hunt, and camp. But perhaps most importantly they passed on their language. Adrian is fluent in Dënesųłıné yatı. This has been invaluable for Adrian in his work as a guardian because he is able to communicate with the Elders.
Adrian lived away from Łutsël K’é for a while. He returned to the community almost two decades ago. Even after he moved home, work took him away from his common-law partner, Stephanie, and their children. “You miss lots during your two weeks away,” he says about the years working in the mines. “It’s nice to be able to stay home, to have a job here.”
While all of Thaidene Nëné is important to Adrian, Ts’ąkuı Thedá (Lady of the Falls) on Ts'ąkuı Thedá Dezé (Lockhart River) is particularly special. He’s done the hike from Desnéthchée to the falls. “It’s quite the trip,” he says. “You’ve got to be physically fit because it’s a physically demanding trail. It’s also a hard trail to find if you don’t know it, but it’s worth it to be there with her.”
Adrian was a band councillor during the negotiations. “I wanted Thaidene Nëné to be so massive,” he remembers. “The whole time they just kept making it smaller and smaller. A lot of things got left out.” He hopes that the area under protection can be increased through the Akaitcho land claim process. “When we do our land claim, we should have a buffer zone around the current boundaries so we have even more protection. Thaidene Nëné is just one step. It’s important that we think in that way.”
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
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.