This is part of 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.
When Darryl Marlowe was first elected chief of the Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation in March 2017, he was 30 years old, making him the youngest person in the community’s history to hold that office. Darryl was happy to have been re-elected for a second term in October 2020: “I really enjoy working for my people, protecting our land, protecting our treaty rights, protecting our inherent rights.”
When he’s not advocating for his people and Thaidene Nëné, Darryl loves spending time on the land with his family, including his five children. Darryl was taught to travel and live on the land by his grandparents, George and Celine Marlowe and Henry King and Maryrose Boucher, and his parents, Kenneth and Elizabeth Boucher. He also found a skilled and willing mentor in his father-in-law, Archie Catholique, who’s been taking Darryl out hunting by boat and skidoo since he was 16.
It is not just the skills needed to be a hunter that were passed on to Darryl, but also Dënesųłıné ethics: “When we go out, we go out as a group. We hunt together and stay together. We help each other, we take care of each other. We also respect the land and the animal. Every time we harvest an animal, we are grateful. We put down tobacco. We say thank you to the animal’s spirit. That animal giving its life allows us to provide for our families.”
While Darryl loves to visit Ts’ąkuı Theda (Lady of the Falls) and Kaché (Fort Reliance), all of Thaidene Nëné is special for the chief, which is why he feels so strongly about the community’s decision to designate it an Indigenous protected area: “We are protecting the heart of our traditional territory from development for the long term. We want to ensure that our way of life, our culture, our land, our water, our animals will be protected for many years to come.”
In protecting Thaidene Nëné, the community of Łutsël K’é is seeking to realize the vision of their ancestors through guidance provided by the elders. Darryl explains, “Everything that we have done is for the future. That’s what our elders used to say: yunedhé xa, which means for the future. All of this work is for future generations. We are leaving them a legacy.”
Darryl wasn’t even born when the discussions of a park first surfaced, but he is honoured to have been able to be part of the process in recent years. In particular, he is proud of the way the community has worked with other partners to have portions of the Thaidene Nëné Indigenous Protected Area designated as a national park reserve, a territorial protected area, and a wildlife conservation area: “I’m glad we took the initiative to develop relationships with two crown governments. At a time when people are talking about reconciliation, we are an example for the rest of the country.”
In addition to providing the heart of the community’s traditional territory with long-term protection from development, Darryl envisions other benefits for the community as they work to develop a tourism and conservation economy through Thaidene Nëné, including employment that is sustainable and meaningful for Łutsël K’é Dene.
Darryl is particularly enthusiastic about the possibilities afforded by Ni Hat’ni Dene. As Darryl notes, “It’s a dream job for people because they get to spend time out on the land.” As importantly, the community relies on the guardians “to ensure that people are being respectful of Łutsël K’é’s traditional territory.” At present, all of the guardians are men. Going forward, Darryl would like to see women on the crew: “They can inspire and open up opportunities for younger generations.”
With a national park reserve and territorial protected area within its borders, Thaidene Nëné will welcome visitors from across the territory, the country, and around the world. Darryl would like to remind visitors that Thaidene Nëné is sacred for the Łutsël K’é Dene, but also that the community depends on the land to sustain itself and its way of life: “Our elders modelled respect for the land. It is our responsibility as young leaders to do the same and to pass this teaching on to others.”
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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.