Our IPERC Coordinator, Craig Settee, attended the Ełèts’ehdèe is Hotıì ts’eeda’s annual gathering in the Northwest Territories. The 2019 Ełèts’ehdèe was held on May 22-24, 2019 at Aurora Village in Yellowknife, on traditional territory of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation. The theme of the event centered around “Building on Our Strengths.”

Craig shares more about the experience in his own words below:

I had the opportunity to attend Hotıì ts’eeda’s – NWT SPOR Support Unit 2019 Ełèts’ehdèe on May 22-24, 2019 at Aurora Village in Yellowknife.

The gathering was well attended. The first day included a KAIROS blanket exercise in the afternoon and social event in the evening with a full array of Indigenous leadership speaking on the work they have engaged in and the importance of Indigenous ways of knowing and doing research in and with Indigenous communities.

Thursday, May 23rd was our first day at Aurora Village, which was about 30 minutes from Yellowknife. The start of the gathering left an impression of gratitude on me – beginning the day with a fire ceremony and song from local Dene drummers. The importance of starting in this way is relevant to me as well and represents a home fire – reminds me of where I come from and the importance of taking care of our home fires, where ever they may be. We then gathered in the main building to hear opening remarks from local leadership and the Hotii ts’eeda team and also garnered two-panel discussions with speakers sharing about projects in the NWT supported by Hotii ts’eeda. In the afternoon, there were concurrent sessions with numerous health/wellness projects and Networks that shared work from a number of parts of the country. What was special about these sessions – they took place in Tipis and/or around a fire, which was a welcomed practice to connect with each other and the land.

Back at the hotel, we were fed a delicious supper and heard from two more panels – the first being an Elders panel who all shared passionately on issues both positive and negative with research and the need for systemic changes in valuing Indigenous, and in particular, Dene ways of knowing, being and doing. The second panel were members of the project “Boots on the Ground” and they shared about tracking caribou migration and in doing so, seeing the effects of climate change in the North in the ice melts and animals unusual to the territory. What star-struck me with this panel was how they framed Indigenous methodologies in their work – walking, tracking, hunting, trapping and harvesting techniques have worked for generations and continue to be relevant in modern research through the connection to land, traditional knowledge and the transference of knowledge between mentors and mentees.

Friday, May 24th was back at Aurora Village and the day was a focus on setting priorities for Hotıì ts’eeda for the upcoming year. There were break out groups that had conversations to determine what kind of projects the people want to see in their communities. I’ve highlighted some of the major thoughts that hit me below:

Indigenous programs need evaluation from Indigenous ways of knowing, protocols and perspectives and should not always be evaluated from Western thought and lenses

Indigenous research needs Indigenous people in leadership positions

Indigenous ceremonies, healing, and traditional practices are legitimate forms of research methods and methodologies

Focusing on connecting Elders and youth – while not forgetting about the adult aged connections and babies.

I was very impressed with the addition of translators included throughout the Gathering. There were always three translators speaking into microphones in the sound booth – Elders had to opportunity to be constantly connected to this with a portable device.

This final thought from Nicole Redvers, ND, really sums up my feeling and experience at the Gathering in Yellowknife – “we do not need to fit Indigenous ways into Western systems – we need Western systems to fit into Indigenous knowledge systems. That is when the real change will happen”.

Miigwetch, Ekosi, Maasi Cho, Thank you,

– Craig Settee

To learn more about the Ełèts’ehdèe Gathering and work by the Northwest Territories SPOR Support Unit, click HERE.