Northern Canada: Northwest Territories land and culture programs get $1 million

Students from Chief Paul Niditchie School in Tsiigehtchic raft up. The school’s annual canoe trip is one of 48 land- and culture-based projects that got funding through the NWT On The Land Collaborative. (Submitted by Chief Paul Niditchie School)
Programs that connect people in the North with their culture and the land are getting a collective $1 million boost.

The NWT On The Land Collaborative is giving out the money to 48 land- and culture-based projects across the Northwest Territories.

The grant money is for programs that foster healthy people, communities, ecosystems and economies in the territory, says a press release from the organization.

Students at Chief Paul Niditchie School and parent visitors play hand games after a long paddle. The school’s annual canoe trip is getting funding through the NWT On The Land Collaborative. (Submitted by Chief Paul Niditchie School)

Sonia Gregory, the principal of Chief Paul Niditchie School in Tsiigehtchic, said grants from the NWT On The Land Collaborative have allowed the school to run yearly canoe trips on Tsiigehnjik (Arctic Red River).

The trips bring students to areas on the river that are culturally and historically significant to the Gwichya Gwich’in people, said Gregory.

She said the 60- to-100-kilometre paddle also builds the students’ leadership skills and resilience.

“When you’re on a trip like that, the kids have to become more independent and resilient, they have to rely on each other,” said Gregory.

“They’ve been emotionally and physically challenged, and then they’ve been able to see that they could come through it.”

Gregory said getting out on the land is expensive.

“To go up that river to those places you need a boat with a good motor and you need to have fuel… and you need to have time,” she said. “Lots of people would like to get out on the land more than they do but they don’t have the financial resources to do so.”

Gregory said the school’s canoe trip gives students in Grades 6 to 9 the chance to visit meaningful places and bond with each other.

“We have nothing but thanks for the On The Land Collaborative because without that seed money, there’s just no way we’d be able to have something like [the canoe trips] happen in our community,” she said.

Shaylene Shae and Dayle Cole, Grade 7 and 8 students at Chief Paul Niditchie School, paddle through Jackfish Creek. (Submitted by Chief Paul Niditchie School)

This year’s grants range from $2,500 to $60,000 and are going primarily to Indigenous governments, schools and NGOs.

Projects to get funding include Deline Got’ine Government’s Tsa Tue Water Guardians Program, Pehdzeh Ki First Nation’s language immersion camp, Tuktoyaktuk Elders Society’s ice fishing program and the Inuvik-based Children First Society’s First Steps on the Land program.

The NWT On The Land Collaborative co-ordinates governments, charities and corporations to help N.W.T. communities get money for on-the-land programming.

Since it started in 2015, the organization has given out more than $3 million to 166 projects across the territory.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canada wants to up collaboration with First Nations, Inuit, Métis on national parks, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Finland’s national parks popular despite poor maintenance, Yle News

Norway: “The ‘Smart Arctic’ is Indigenous,” Saami leader tells Arctic Frontiers, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Russia adds small Arctic island to large national park, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: U.S. Gov quietly allows land survey in Alaskan wildlife refuge, enviro groups furious, Alaska Public Media

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