It took nearly 50 years of planning and consultation, but Canada’s newest national park reserve has officially been established in the Northwest Territories.
On Wednesday, representatives from Parks Canada, the Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation, the Deninu K’ue First Nation, Yellowknives Dene First Nation and the territorial government met in Lutsel K’e to formally sign an agreement establishing Thaidene Nëné National Park Reserve. The occasion was celebrated with a feeding the fire ceremony and a community feast. The Northwest Territory Métis Nation, which also has ties to the region, held a similar signing event on Tuesday in Fort Resolution, according to CBC.
Thaidene Nëné is Canada’s 48th national park or park reserve and the first to be established since 2015. It was first proposed in 1970 but was met with resistance from the Lutsel K’e chief and council at the time, who were concerned that the park would prevent the Dene from exercising their right to hunt, fish and trap on the land. In the 1990s, the area began to attract interest from mining companies, and in 2000, Felix Lockhart, the former Lutsel K’e chief, approached Parks Canada to reopen discussions about the park.
Thaidene Nëné will be co-managed by the federal and territorial governments and the local First Nations, with the Ni Hat’ni Dene Rangers serving as guardians during the summer months — interacting with visitors, monitoring the environmental well-being of the park, and passing on traditional knowledge to youth. To that end, the Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation has set up a $30-million trust fund to support its responsibilities in the park, and the federal government has said it plans to invest $40 million in the park over its first 12 years.
Here are four key things to know about Thaidene Nëné.
Where is Thaidene Nëné?
Thaidene Nëné protects 26,525 square kilometres of land northeast of the territorial capital of Yellowknife. The national park reserve makes up just over half of the total area, and is surrounded to the south, west and north by territorial protected areas and a wildlife conservation area. The closest community is Lutsel K’e on the south shore of Great Slave Lake.