This is the third 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.
Like the other Ni Hat’ni Dene guardians, Denecho Catholique feels pretty lucky to be part of the crew: “I get to do what I love, which is travel on the land.” Two of Denecho’s favourite places to visit in Thaidene Nëné are Kaché (Fort Reliance) and Pike’s Portage. The latter is a special trail for Łutsël K’é Dene that crosses the treeline, connecting Kache to ɂedacho Kúe (Artillery Lake). “It’s a different country up there,” Denecho explains, referring to the barrenlands, or hazú in Dënesųłıné.
As part of the Ni Hat’ni Dene crew, Denecho is also able to visit places in his ancestral territory he’s never been to. In the spring of 2020, for instance, the guardians travelled to Tł’ombálı Tué (Tent Lake), the place where his father was raised. This experience was especially meaningful because Denecho was able to travel there with his dad, Herman Catholique, and Herman hadn’t been to Tł’ombálı Tué in 40 years. As Denecho visits places both familiar and new in Thaidene Nëné with Ni Hat’ni Dene, he is honing his skills as a land user. In particular, he notes, “I’ve learned how to travel and navigate better.”
Before he was hired as a junior guardian in January 2020, Denecho worked with Ni Hadi Xa (People Watching the Land Together), the environmental monitoring program for Gahcho Kué Diamond Mine. While he enjoyed being a monitor, the position with Ni Hat’ni Dene has allow Denecho to be closer to his family, including his twin daughters, McKinley and Tthaili. Both girls love spending time on the land with their dad, whether they are going out on the big lake or visiting with their grandma, Irene Catholique, at her place on the Snowdrift River.
Denecho is more than a role model for his daughters. In his words, “As a Ni Hat’ni Dene guardian, I am a role model for the younger generations. That makes me feels good. It makes me feel special.”
Whether he’s teaching local youth traditional practices, informing visitors about how to travel respectfully in Thaidene Nëné, keeping an eye on important cultural and historic sites, or assisting with fire fighting, Denecho is proud to be a watcher of the land, a Ni Hat’ni Dene.
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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.