Reconciliation Through Conservation: Mining, the Environment, and Development that Conflicts with the Rights and Values of Indigenous Peoples – Transcript

About This Episode

Porcupine (00:00): Steven Nitah, a Dene from the Northwest Territories negotiated a protected area in the heart of diamond mining country and his traditional territories. Steve will tell you this protected area, five times the size of Prince Edward Island, is an essential part of reconciliation for his people, because it’s about co-governance.

Episode Introduction

Porcupine (00:21): How do porcupines hug? Very carefully, and such is the story of reconciliation, at least so far. I’m Merrell-Ann Phare. I’m Michael Miltenberger. This is Porcupine. 

Hello everyone. We’re here today with Steven Nitah, who is a Senior Advisor for the Indigenous Leadership Initiative and also a co-leader of the Conservation through Reconciliation Partnership. And we are going to hear about these amazing initiatives today. 

But what I want to start with is, I want to explain to you a little bit about how Michael and Steven, and I know each other. We worked together on a file negotiating. Steven was the Chief Negotiator for Łutsël K’é First Nation in the Northwest Territories as he was the Chief Negotiator of Thaidene Nene park. And I was also Chief Negotiator, but for Government in the Northwest Territories and Michael was the Minister at the time. And so, we have known each other for a little while. And since that initiative, a number of years ago, we’ve all gone on to do other things that we will talk about today. But it’s very nice again, to see you or hear you Steven, and we’re really thrilled that you’re here today on our podcast to talk about your amazing work on conservation and reconciliation.

Tell us about your journey.

Porcupine (01:45): To start…I’d like to ask you then before we get into the trip down memory lane on Thaidene Nene, could you just give our listeners, just a brief idea of your journey from a young lad growing up in Łutsël K’é to ending up as chief negotiator and now on to involvement with these other very interesting initiatives where you’re co-lead and a senior advisor. 

Steven Nitah (2:11): Wow. That’s a long road you’re asking me to travel, Michael. You know, I like to tell the story of the love between my grandmother and my grandfather. Unfortunately, my grandfather passed away years ago when my mother was only 10 years old. And on his death bed, he got my grandmother to promise him that she’ll do everything she can to prevent my mother from experiencing undue stress in life. So, fast forward eight years and I was being born in April 1967. My mother was 18 years old and no husband, no partner. And to my grandmother, that qualified as undue stress. So, her and her husband, Bill Nitah took a dog team from Łutsël K’é to Yellowknife and pretty much told my mother that from this day forth until the day I die, this is my son. He’s your brother. Now I’ll raise him as my son. They took me back to Łutsël K’é in the area and brought me up the traditional way on the land, following the seasons. 

That teaching was a very good teaching for me as teachings I use today in the work I do and the work I’ve done to date. They saw some leadership qualities in me, and the Elders of the community put me under their wing. And then I have to say at that time, it wasn’t a very fun experience for me when all the young guys are hunting or playing, I was stuck in the reading rooms where the oldest talked about their responsibilities and the challenges of the day. But it served me well today, so I’m very thankful for that. 

That led me to cover a number of leadership roles within my community and the region. I was elected Band Counselor at 18. I’ve served as a recreation leader in the community. I was elected MLA, elected Chief and was given the awesome responsibility of leading the community as their chief negotiator in the Thaidene Nene negotiations and establishment. Now that the Thaidene Nene is done, they have appointed me to be one of the managers to make sure that this is managed and governed the way…with a spirit and intent with which we created agreements with Canada and the government Northwest Territories.

GNWT and Indigenous governments working together to create protected areas:

Porcupine (05:03): That’s a very long and impressive list of accomplishments there, Steven. So, speaking about those achievements, I just want to know…. I’ll get back to the issue of collaboration and reconciliation and a trip down memory lane for you and I that in early 2014, the file on Thaidene Nene sort of stalled out. And we had a very significant debating in Cabinet and the file changed hands. And it was given to ENR (Environment and Natural Resources) where I was a Minister and I recollect a 7 am meeting in the morning where I was there with some of the officials, the Deputy Minister and his staff, and Felix… Chief Lockhart was there, and along with a couple of his folks plus yourself. We took a fairly significant opportunity to reset the relationship. And you’ll talk about this I’m sure over the course of the interview of that currently existed between GNWT and Łutsël K’é and we agreed to work on a collaborative basis where we would sort ourselves out, fast track the process, and try to agree on all the big critical issues, the footprint and the type of land, and all the other issues. And then we would turn to the federal government and push the Northern position. So, I was just interested to know, if your recollection about that, since it’s tied to reconciliation…if you have any memories of that meeting, or they are as significant as mine, cause I’ve always…I’ve never forgotten that meeting as being so important.

Steven Nitah (06:52): Yeah. I remember that meeting starting at 6:00 AM, I think…and that’s one thing you’d like to use is that early morning meetings. That’s I think your way to ensure that the people that are asking to meet with you were interested in and intentional about it. I’m not a morning person, as you know.

Porcupine: My eyes widened when you walked through the door.

Steven Nitah: Thaidene Nene was very important, a mandate that I had. And definitely, I do remember that morning and the ones after, a lot of flipped political meandering that we got to that point in time, I think it was a momentous morning. That’s the morning to me that the GNWT decided to get into the business of creating protected areas in partnership with Indigenous governments across the country. 

As you know, the Northwest Territories is a one-horse pony when it comes to the economies—we’re a resource extraction jurisdiction. We don’t have a tax base to raise the financial resources needed for the programs and services. And it was through some hard work and leadership by you and your department. And Michael, I think the GNWT (Government of the NWT) that we could create a conservation economy around Indigenous-led protected and conserved areas. 

So, it was a good day when we agreed that the government of Northwest Territories was going to create a Protected Areas Act, and the road you took in leading the Government Northwest Territories in developing that Protected Areas Act was ground breaking in Canada and in the world. Where you invited the Indigenous governments and their representatives to sit down with you to help the legislative proposal. That was a huge for conservation in Northwest Territories but was humongous for the reconciliation road.

Porcupine (09:07): Can you give us a bit of a history on the path? What it was like for you in the path leading up to that meeting in terms of just to explain to people what actually was at stake there? What had happened?

Steven Nitah: Well, certainly Parks Canada under the leadership of then Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, Jean Chrétien, our former Prime Minister, was interested in creating an East Arm National Park back in 1969, 1970. And as you both know, those are pretty dark days in Indigenous and Crown government relations. Parks Canada itself has a dark history, and Jean Chretien and the Government of Canada wanted to put that dark history right in our backyard. And I remember our Chief of the day, Joe Lockhart, pretty much told him to take your maps and get the hell out of town. 

We are not interested in a national park where you’re going to kick us off that land…

… and prevent us from using that land, as we’ve always done, circumventing our treaty and Aboriginal rights, which were not really defined at that time. So, Canada came back several times over the ensuing years and expressing interests, but the answers were the same coming through the community. However, in 2000, Akaitcho, and its partners sign onto a framework agreement to start formal negotiations on what we call a land claims process here in the Northwest Territories.

Steven Nitah (10:48): And at that time we had several examples of what that looks like—looking at the Inuvialuit agreement, the Gwich’in agreement and the Sahtu. That process required that the land selection was part of the process and it’s based on populations of the quantum of land is fairly small, especially for the Łutsël K’é people who are the most easterly community in Northwest Territories. Our closest neighbour to the east, is Baker Lake, south is Fort Smith, west is Yellowknife and Fort Resolution. So, you know, we have influence and use of roughly 200,000 square kilometers of land. So, when a comprehensive claims final agreement would ask us to select a smidgen of that percentage of the total quantum, it would be a very, very hard pill to swallow. Not only that, shortly before that in the ‘90s our region Slave Geological Province experienced the largest exploration activity in mankind’s history. When diamonds were discovered, exploration companies were all over the place, staking land like crazy.

Steven Nitah (12:14): So, when we returned from Ford Resolution where, Akaitcho signed onto their framework to start the formal negotiations, the Elders of the community asked for a meeting and pretty much told us that we needed to create a protected area in the heart of our homeland. 

So, what kicked off a series of activities and the process…and those activities started with research and best practices locally in Canada and globally on protected areas and different kinds of particular areas, different types of governance models, et cetera, et cetera. So, after several years of that, all information was brought back to the Elders and they decided to reach out to Parks Canada to see if Parks Canada was still interested in the national park within our territory. We chose Parks Canada for three main reasons to begin with.

Canada didn’t enter the treaty with the spirit and intent of co-managing and co-benefitting from the land.

Steven Nitah (13:19): I think the most important reasons that we have a treaty with Canada. We made treaty on July 25th, where from our understanding in spirit and intent with which we entered the agreement or the treaty, is that we agreed to share the land. We agree to manage, help co-manage those lands and co-benefit from those lands. That was the spirit and intent with which we entered the treaty. And that’s what we honour and uphold in our relationship with Canada. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with Canada, they didn’t entering into the treaty with that spirit and intent, they entered the treaty with a mandate to get to an agreement, agree to whatever, knowing that they have an assimilation policy in the works, and knowing that what their intent was to pretty much get rid of Indigenous Peoples, do a full assimilation. 120 years later, we have a different relationship now.

Porcupine: So, Steve, this is such an important point, and I really want to break it down because I remember having a conversation with you one time after a negotiating session outside in the parking lot, where we talked about the fact that your strategy, the Akaitcho strategy, Łutsël K’é strategy, was: we don’t actually need to negotiate a land claim agreement because then that creates sort a winner and a loser, your land versus our land. And of course, as you just said, you wouldn’t get much land in that process—that what was being offered, quote unquote, by the GNWT or Canada was a small amount of what your whole territory was, and that your strategy was actually let’s collaborate on something we both can support. And for you, that was a conservation-based economy all through this massive park. And it was just such a phenomenally smart strategy. That you didn’t…my understanding is you don’t feel, you need necessarily to… like, you’re still going ahead with your land claims negotiations, but this is part of your strategy in addition to that, right?

Parks Canada itself has a dark history And I’d like Thaidene Nene as a relationship agreement that outlines roles and responsibilities that the parties have negotiated in those agreements. So, for Łutsël K’é, for Canada and for GNWT, within the boundaries of Thaidene Nene, it is an implementation of the treaty, the spirit and intent of the treaty. And it’s a reflection of a reconciliation achieved where we accept each other and each other’s authority and for what it is and who we are, and then agreeing to move together forward in collaboration and creation, the creation of Thaidene Nene, the governance, management, and operations. So, to me, that’s what the spirit and intent of all the treaties that were made across the country was for. Now, if you try and negotiate comprehensive final agreements that create certainty, the only goal has been a failure. Of course, I’m concerned. Thaidene Nene could be an example for the country. 

Was it difficult for you to stick to your guns when negotiating with systems that are not necessarily supportive of collaboration?

Porcupine (17:10): Just a bit more conversation about that if we could, Steve. So, prior to 2014, the strategy I know of the territorial government was to try to use Thaidene Nene as a bargaining chip, which led to the gridlock. And that changed when you and I, and the Chief had our meeting, but I just personally would just like to ask you the road of reconciliation and collaboration is not often smooth, and it’s not often straight, but you stuck to your guns. And from 2019, you finally signed the deal. And I just was wondering if you could just reflect a bit about the personal commitment it takes to stick to collaboration and working in good faith, looking to set up these governance and relationships when in fact the systems you’re negotiating with are entrenched and not necessarily supportive of that. How difficult was that for you personally?

Steven Nitah (18:12): Well, it was a challenge for sure, Michael. It was a big challenge, especially in the first couple of years of negotiations with Parks Canada. We were lucky that we had a pretty good negotiating team that were committed to the process. And we had a very strong mandate from the Elders, the community supported by the Chief and Council of the day. The mandate was to implement the spirit and intent of the treaty. That was the mandate that we had. So treaty making is done by nations, and we came to the tables, bringing our lands and our relationship with the land, the history, and we invited to Canada and the Government of the Northwest Territories, and right off the onset to join us as a three government initiative to create Thaidene Nene, knowing that if Canada, or GNWT did not come on board that we were going to do it anyways, because we have that authority as an Indigenous nation.

Steven Nitah (19:20): We don’t have a treaty for nothing. So, sticking to that mandate was a key to the success of Thaidene Nene. And it’s important to recognize that the speeches made by the government of the day, both at the federal and territory level, where politicians make statements of intent. And then, you know, when the Prime Minister Trudeau, after, when he won the election in 2015, indicated there is no more important relationship than those with Indigenous Peoples and we wanted to negotiate with them nation to nation. When the prime minister makes those statements, it’s a public statement on behalf of the people of Canada. It becomes a responsibility of individuals like myself and you guys to take that political statement and intent and give it life. And I have to recognize you, Michael, for doing exactly that. You took an entrenched government and led them to a way of thinking that took them out of that entrenchment and were able to see the value of the mandate that Łutsël K’é brought to the table, which was one of recognition of the spirit and intent of the treaty and how we can work together, going forward, not as adversaries, but as partners in treaty. That’s partners in here in the Northwest Territories and managing our resources and our lands, animals, and this way we can make these benefits for the people and in Thaidene Nene’s case, for the region here.

What is the link between reconciliation and conservation?

Porcupine (21:04): So one of the things that leads me to…I remember at one point in one meeting, when, on the GNWT side, we had to go in, we were engaging with members of the public, and there’s the business community. Most of them, not all of them, but quite a few of them were quite concerned that setting up a large protected area like this, and they use the term would ‘sterilize the land’. That’s the term they use for making it no longer available for resource development: sterilizing the land. And I remember Michael being incensed by that language and pushing back at that time. But can you make the link for us? What, for folks that aren’t familiar, what is the link between reconciliation and conservation itself? Because, you know…and what is the way you think of conservation so that it’s something that isn’t where you’re excluded, but that it’s something that allows your nation to thrive. What does it look like?

Steven Nitah: Well, my nation has been surviving and thriving within that region for years. What threatened that is the destruction of the land and ecosystem. We have a huge territory in the Northwest Territories but it’s a very sensitive ecological environment. We’re in a desert type environment. So when you create a conservation environment, you’re not talking about sterilizing the land, or you’re talking about creating certainty for future generations, that you could continue being who they are as Dene people, and being able to use that land the way they use it for a millennia. That’s the certainty you create. 

And also, we’ve done the numbers, you know, we’ve crunched the numbers for Łutsël K’é, just the community for Łutsël K’é, Thaidene Nene is like having one diamond mine every 25 years. That’s based on the benefits we’re getting from the existing diamond mines, that’s out there in terms of employment creation, business opportunities, which will only grow and grow us as we get more visitorship to Thaidene Nene and more interest in Thaidene Nene. There’s other economic opportunities you can create through a conservation economy, outside of tourism, outside of a traditional hunting, trapping and gathering. Thaidene Nene transitions across different footprints. You would… we transition from boreal to the hardwood Canadian Shield into the Tundra. It’s a great location for research projects by academia, by industry, where they may want to test equipment or monitored climate change. Those camps require the same type of resources and support as exploration camps.

It’s those, the companies that support exploration will be able to support these types of camps where creating the conservation area and creating certainty within that. You could get into long term observations of climate change, for example. So, yeah, this is one way to ensure that we’re not totally dependent on the boom bust cyclical economy. That is the resource extraction economy—where the money goes, where the latest and greatest and easiest to access, easiest destroyed lines, if you want to put it that way, goes. I understand that the mining industry…I was…I’m probably one of the few people in the world. I’ve had the opportunity to be part of the management team that started Diavik Diamond Mines. I was out there doing the exploration side during the early, early sampling and measuring the quantity of diamonds to make sure that there’s enough there to warrant the awesome investment. So, I helped start a diamond mind. I helped create a number of jobs that did great for the North and I pretty much created a middle-class Indigenous community here in the Northwest Territories. And on the other hand, I’m a conservationist as well.

What’s your life like post Thaidene Nene?

Porcupine (25:49): So speaking about conservation, I’d just like to touch on your life post Thaidene Nene and reconciliation in conservation. You’ve said you were part of two new organizations, the Indigenous Leadership Initiative, and the Conservation through Reconciliation Partnership. Could you just sort of touch on how you’ve built off everything you’ve learned that tied Thaidene Nene to that point in your life and brought that…what type of skills and expertise you have to those organizations? Maybe touch on how you’re continuing to advance those concepts.

Steven Nitah (26:27): Yeah. Thaidene Nene came in and happened at a very opportune time in Canadian history, global history, really, and what we were able to accomplish in Thaidene Nene became a good template for Canada and the world. I’m not sure if your listeners know, or if you know, that Thaidene Nene Łutsël K’é won a United Nations Development Program award for the work we put into Thaidene Nene. We won it this year, where we are participating in the ceremony in September to accept that award. We were one of 10 Indigenous communities globally out of 1600 proposals and applicants.

Porcupine (27:18): Congratulations. Congratulations. Well deserved. Congratulations, Steve. Wow, that’s great.

Steven Nitah: Yeah, it was a very big surprise to me. I didn’t even know we were in the running. That’s United Nation—it’s pretty much telling the world that here is an example of Indigenous leadership working with public governments to create a conservation area that respects Indigenous authority and leadership.

Porcupine: Let me just quickly interject I just can’t resist this one, when due south of you, Wood Buffalo National Park, same agencies is going the opposite way. They’re in risk of losing their status. I don’t know how you think about that, but it sure seems to be a contradiction, or do you think you guys have done amazingly well, and to the South where I live Wood Buffalo Park is under enormous pressure. 

Michael, you’re talking about their status as a UNESCO world heritage site? 


Yeah, it is a contradiction.

Steven Nitah (28:23): Well, I think that the whole region is a contradiction in a lot of ways, but to answer your question, I invited to…by Canada to participate in the working group, nationwide to engage Indigenous Peoples and governments across the country and ask the question: 

What conditions would you like to see for you to partner with Canada, to engage with Canada, to create protected areas within your territories? 

That would contribute to Canada’s contribution to the global targets of protected and conserved areas as part of a worldwide challenge or fighting back against climate change. The Accord signed by the Prime Minister Harper in 2010 called for 17% of protected areas in Canada and 10% oceans by 2020. So, I was a part of about 20 people, of a committee called Indigenous Circle of Experts where we had roughly 50/ 50 Indigenous folks from across the country, along with federal provincial bureaucrats that we’re working within the conservation and protected areas branch of their governments.

And we had four regional gatherings, including one here in Yellowknife for the Northern Indigenous folks, where we brought in folks from Nunavut, Yukon, Northern Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, British Columbia. We had another one over in Digby, Nova Scotia, one in Tofino, British Columbia, and also for the South Central and Winnipeg. And every one of those, we asked the question, we had a three-day gathering, and it was very funny how things broke out in these meetings. It became predictable almost for the first half-day people were talking about…were expressing fears and anxiety. So, we’re working with governments, and there’s lots of mistrust of governments and Indigenous Canada, speaking about their rights and how it is impacting their rights. 

The second time after the first day, we transitioned from talking about rights until we said, we are not here to talk about rights. We’ve been talking about rights in Indigenous Canada for a hundred years now. What we’re talking about is responsibility. How to exercise our responsibility. And Michael, at the end of every gathering, an Elder would come up to me and thank me. Thank us as a group of people that initiated this talk. They’d been waiting for these types of discussions where we talk about the responsibility that Indigenous Peoples have. 

And that’s a big part of the reconciliation in my mind, because the assimilation policy of Canada targeted, taking away of responsibility from Indigenous Peoples. 

They went through to the point where Indian agents would go into people’s homes and take out their honey buckets (indoor toilets c/w plastic bag). That’s the length of some of the policies that was used of taking people’s responsibility away, like trying to kill the Indians in them, the spirit of the people.

So, to me, reassumed responsibility is a big, big part of reconciliation initiative. 

So that report, we created a report called ‘We Rise Together’ with 15 recommendations. And by that time, I was asked by the Indigenous Leadership Initiative. Well, it was with the work with them in advance, in that role for Indigenous government, supporting governments, where we’re right across the country and exercising their responsibility to reassuming their roles, normally in their communities, but in their homes and their families within those shells. And that’s what we do as Indigenous leadership initiative. 

We submitted a report in 2018, right around then a couple of professors from the University of Guelph approached me and my friend, Eli Enns from Nuu-Chah-Nulth in West Coast, British Columbia to consider if we would put our names to an application to the Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) for a seven-year research project who worked on conservation and reconciliation across the country. So that’s where the Conservation through Reconciliation was born. We were successful in our proposal. We got some funding and we started that work May of 2019. And we’re one year into a seven-year project. Now we have a number of partners right across the country. Most of the major NGOs are partners, many universities, bunch of nations and communities, and several departments from the federal group.

Porcupine (33:54): I’ve looked at the website, Steve, you know you’re working with an impressive bunch of people on a very, very critical cause.

Steven Nitah: Yeah. The work we’ve done together on Thaidene Nene has informed a great deal of that report ‘We Rise Together.’ A great deal of what’s happening across the country right now, I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Canada’s pathways to Target 1, to reach a 17% committed…25% by 2025, 30% by 2030, when we started to the process in 2018, when we submitted a report, Canada was at around 10% protected areas…terrestrial protected areas, 7% remain in representative quantum of land, the size of Saskatchewan. 

So, here’s an opportunity in my mind, right across the country, where a great opportunity for reconciliation can happen. Where Indigenous Peoples can share their leadership and knowledge in how we have relationships with our territories. So not only in the creation of Indigenous protecting conserved areas where Indigenous Peoples can take the leadership role and the responsibility for them, for the operations. Some could be like the Thaidene Nene model, where you partner with crown governments to do that, but it exists where you could, the Indigenous Peoples, can have access to their territories and managing this territories without long protracted negotiations, such as the comprehensive claims process and treaty land entitlement process.

Porcupine (35:30): Since the treaty was signed, and then there’s been subsequent agreements, and now there’s debating about those agreements… That really is a path that uses up careers and keeps people in poverty. And it really… this is such an innovative way to approach this issue where you just say, we acknowledge each other’s as governments, and let’s see if we can find a way to collaborate on something that can benefit us all. And it really is such great work that you’re doing on this. I wish everybody knew about what you’re doing. And so hopefully we can be some part in having people become more aware. I know you work tirelessly on that as you look to the future and the work that you’re doing here with these two other institutions, and then still being involved in Thaidene Nene. Are you optimistic that there will come a day when Canada will actually come to grips with this hard past and be able to collectively, like together, we’ll be able to chart out a good path for the future?

Does this work give you optimism or is it still…do you think we still have a really far way to go or maybe it’s both?

Steven Nitah (36:36): Well, I should. Yeah, I think I’m very optimistic. I think we have a great example of truly Indigenous protected and conserved areas like Thaidene Nene where we could demonstrate how we could work together. We could easily do the same thing outside of protected areas. You could create economic zones where we could create certainty for investments, investors, manage marine and other areas together. We don’t have to have comprehensive claims agreement that foresees every possible problem. It’s about relationships. And if you go in and…you have to work relationships, you have to move forward. We have to get away from this mentality of divorce agreements and create relationship agreements that draw on the strings on the parties involved. I think that’s the only way we’re going to move forward. The alternative is that we quashed the constitution, the master law of this country, where Indigenous Peoples have recognized rights that honors the treaty. Canada did a hell of a job in the assimilation policies. 

One of the things that most Canadians don’t understand is that all Canadians were subjected to the assimilation policy. Indigenous Peoples were targeted definitely, but Canadian public were conditioned by the policy to be indifferent to what their government was doing to the Indigenous Peoples. So, Canada, can…we could go into an exercise of deconditioning that understanding.

What’s the first step for First Nations or governments looking to invest in conservation and reconciliation?

Porcupine (38:19): Yes. And that’s what, one of the things we…when we started this podcast, it’s because we knew that we know…we believe that reconciliation is a conversation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples. We’re all in this as Michael calls, it’s a 360 obligation and responsibility, and we all need to try to figure out what can we do in our one little part of our life? You know, what can we do? And so, I completely agree with you, if you knew there was a first nation or a local municipal government or another provincial government, somewhere that was interested in this as a solution, what would be the advice? What would be like the main advice you would give them on how to start? What’s the first step? What should they do?

Steven Nitah (39:04): Well, I said open the minds and hearts to the possibilities of a treaty, honouring the treaty relationship if you’re in the treaty territory. Move forward and come to agreement, even if that means agreements to disagree on a subject matter, you can create agreements without coming to agreements. Like Thaidene Nene for an example, the jurisdictional issue is the big one. That’s one big issue right across the country. One of the lines in making Thaidene Nene was okay, as far as jurisdiction is concerned, we agreed to disagree who has jurisdiction. What we can agree, is that Thaidene Nene is important enough to all of us, that we’re going to work together for the benefit of Thaidene Nene. So that’s an awesome cause to agree to. Just push that aside and let’s move forward on this issue. And I think that’s it, that’s the spirit and intent with which parties should enter into all negotiations process.

Porcupine (40:07): And, you know, that was such a key sticking point. I remember that one and I think governments all across Canada get stuck on that. It’s our jurisdiction. It’s not your jurisdiction. And agreeing to disagree, just opens up all kinds of conversations and allows for, you know, that’s what collaboration is. I agree with you, that was a momentous moment when we reached agreement at the table… to do it that way, can you say… how do you say reconciliation in Chipewyan? Yeah. How do you say reconciliation in your language, Steve?

Steven Nitah (40:41): We understand each other, or we agree with each other. You could use it in different contexts, but that’s the word ek’erítà.

Concluding questions:

Porcupine (40:57): Oh, wow. That’s a beautiful, beautiful word. Okay. Well, we wanted to…I’ve got a couple of very quick, fast questions for you. These are the hardest ones for the day. Hamburger or taco?

Steven Nitah: Taco in summer, hamburger in the winter.

Porcupine: Oh, come on. Okay. Money or free time?

Steven Nitah: Free time.

Porcupine: Ninjas or pirates?

Steven Nitah: Pirates all the way.

Porcupine: Work hard or play hard?

Steven Nitah: Both. 

Porcupine: I knew you were going to say that one. I knew you’re going to say both. Okay. 

And here’s the worst one: toilet paper over or under?

Steven Nitah (41:34): Oh, accordion.

Porcupine (41:40): I can’t even imagine what that looks like. 

There you have it, folks. Two chief negotiators having fun together. 

Oh my goodness. Okay. Well, Steve, thanks so much for taking the time with us. It’s been wonderful to talk to you. You’re such a fabulously passionate spokesperson and advocate for these issues, and so clear and articulate about what we need to do. Such incredible successes. And so, thank you very much, very much for your time with us today. Thank you, Steven, till we meet again.

Steven Nitah (42:13): Till we meet again. One last statistic around Indigenous protecting conserved areas. There’s 27 proposals that are funded through the Canadian Pathways to Target 1 challenge fund, Thaidene Nene is one of those funded right now, in progress and development that represents a quantum of at 500,000 square kilometers right now. And through an expression of interest call from Canada, there was over 160 expressions of interest from across the country. So, this is just the beginning of folks.

Porcupine (42:47): Wow. It is absolutely…Those are great stats. That’s so helpful. That’s fantastic. Well, thanks for sharing that with us and stay safe my friend.

Steven Nitah (42:59): Thank you. Wash your hands. All right. 

Porcupine: Take care Steven. Bye-bye. Bye-bye.


Listen to this Episode

Episode 1: Reconciliation Through Conservation: Mining, the Environment, and Development that Conflicts with the Rights and Values of Indigenous Peoples
Episode 2: The Human Right to a Healthy Environment: How It Can Transform Society and Achieve Reconciliation
Episode 3: Addressing the Indigenous Health Gap: Reconciliation Through Bridging Western and Indigenous Medicines
Episode 4: Finding Healing After Surviving Residential Schools in Canada
Episode 5: Reconciliation: Redefined by an Indigenous Spiritual Leader
Episode 6: Reconciliation and Serving the World Through Sustainable Engineering
Episode 7: How Housing Could Save the Lives of MMIWG
Episode 8: Exploring Reconciliation through Clean Energy in Indigenous Communities
Episode 9: Reconciliation and Climate Change: Indigenous Peoples Taking Action
Episode 10: Indigenous Economic Reconciliation: The Way to a Strong Canadian Economy


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