This is the fourth 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.
Growing up, Jason Michel didn’t spend a lot of time in town and he preferred it that way: “I was raised travelling on the land with my parents, Mary-Jane and Antoine Michael, and sleeping in a tent. I loved that. It was more fun out there than in town.” You can imagine how happy Jason was then when he was offered one of four full-time guardian positions with Ni Hat’ni Dene in January 2020. Not only would he get paid to spend time on the land, but he would also have the opportunity to pass on what he had learned from his parents.
Jason is a senior guardian, which means that one of his responsibilities is to pass along traditional practices and knowledge to with the junior guardians and the youth who are part of the summer crew. One value he shares with them is the importance of listening to the elders: “They are wiser than us. What they say goes. If they don’t think it’s right, they tell us.”
Inspired by the elders, Jason takes his role as a watcher of the land very seriously. He feels a deep responsibility as Łutsël K’é Dene and a senior guardian with Ni Hat’ni Dene to “protect the land.” Patrolling Thaidene Nëné, watching over the special places, the animals, and the fish are all part of his responsibilities as a guardian. As important as being a good steward is being a good host: “I enjoy welcoming people to Thaidene Nëné. I especially like being able to tell visitors that this is our park and that we are protecting our park. It feels good to protect our park.”
While all of Thaidene Nëné is important for Jason, he especially likes spending time at Ɂedacho Kúe (Artillery Lake), where Ni Hat’ni Dene have a cabin, because it is so close to the caribou. Taking care of the caribou is an important part of the guardian program; it is also a key part of the responsibility that Jason feels to the land.
In addition to sharing his experience on the land with other members of the Ni Hat’ni Dene, Jason loves spending time on the land with his wife, Jennifer Michel, and their family and passing on what he knows about the land, language, culture, and history of the Łutsël K’é Dene to his daughter, Desiree, and grandson, Easton.
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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.