This is the seventh 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.
The Ni Hat’ni Dene are not the only guardians that work out of the Thaidene Nëné office. Laura Jane Michel, who is the community’s traditional knowledge archivist, is also a guardian, in this case of stories, place names, and knowledge. Amongst other things, Laura Jane is responsible for managing the community’s TrailMark database, which is a repository for a wide range of documents containing information about the people and land of Thaidene Nëné, including transcripts, recordings, theses, photographs, and GPS data.
Laura Jane Michel was raised in Łutsël K’é by her late parents, Mary Jane and Antoine Michel: “They taught me and my siblings everything we needed to know about living on the land, like camping, hunting, and how to survive.” (Laura Jane’s brother, Jason, is a Ni Hat’ni Dene guardian). In addition to sharing their language and culture with their children, Antoine and Mary Jane also passed on their love for land. “I crave being out on the land all the time. If I don’t go out, I feel so lost. I feel so bored.” Now, Laura Jane is sharing her passion for the Land of the Ancestors with her daughter, Serena.
Laura Jane had a hard time identifying her favourite spots in Thaidene Nëné because there are so many. She eventually landed on two places, both of which have connections to her father. The first is Kache (Fort Reliance): “I like going to the gathering in August. I also like doing the hike to Perry Falls and asking the Lady of the Falls for help and guidance. My late dad always told me: if you feel sick or anything, that’s where you go. You have to believe in her for her to help you.” The second place is Ptarmigan River at the north end of Ɂedacho Tué (Artillery Lake): “I love fishing there in the fall time. My late dad had a lodge at Ptarmigan River, so that’s where I learned about fishing and caribou.”
Like others in the community, Laura Jane is looking forward to welcoming those from away to the Land of the Ancestors. She just asks that visitors have respect for the land and the people: “Thaidene Nëné is our traditional territory, it’s a sacred place.” A good visitor, she explains, will respect local beliefs and protocols, like asking permission before visiting certain places or paying the land and the water when travelling through the park.
Thaidene Nëné exists because of the respect that Łutsël K’é Dene have for the land and all the beings that inhabit it. Maintaining these relationships and the health and wellbeing of the land, the water, and the animals is vital for ensuring that future generations are able to live as the ancestors did.
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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.