A Brief History of the Park

( Thaidene Nene or The East Arm National Park)

***Note – The following history is taken from a presentation titled “The Land That We Keep for Us, An Aboriginal Perspective on Conservation – The Case of Thaidene Nene/East Arm of Great Slave Lake” given by Steve Ellis and Gloria Enzoe at The Canadian Parks for Tomorrow Conference in May, 2008 in Calgary, Alberta. Used with permission. To download the full presentation please click here.

1969-1970 – Canada approaches Chief Pierre Catholique of the Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation in the interest of obtaining First Nation support for a New National Park in the East Arm of Great Slave Lake. The Chief is flown to the mountain parks and Prince Albert NP to be shown examples of National Parks. He is then flown to Ottawa to sign a document providing support for park establishment. The Chief refuses to sign the document, feeling rushed, coerced, and isolated in Ottawa. He is also very concerned that his people will be prevented from practicing their way of life in the park – he fears a loss of jurisdiction over the traditional homeland, the uncontrolled encroachment of visitors, and an inability to harvest wildlife and otherwise hunt, fish, trap, and gather. Upon returning home, he calls for a meeting of Dene Chiefs. Famously, he states that “never again will a Dene Chief be alone in a room with a number of government officials. In the future, we must be united – when there are 16 government officials in a room, there will be 16 Dene Chiefs”. This is the inception of the Indian Brotherhood, which later evolved into the Dene Nation. Failing to obtain Dene consent, Canada nonetheless makes an Order in Council to withdraw a portion of the East Arm of Great Slave Lake (7400 square kms.) in the hopes of making a National Park there in the future.

1970 Land Withdrawal

1980s – Canada again approaches Lutsel K’e in the early 1980s to introduce a slightly modified park proposal, hoping that time may have resolved some outstanding issues. However, the same concerns as in 1970 remain – uncertainty over the effect of a park upon a people’s ability to practice their way of life. Nonetheless, the Dene recognize that the withdrawal has protected some of its traditional territory from mineral interests. It supports the withdrawal, but upholds position that it will not discuss park until lands, rights, and title issues are resolved through negotiation with Canada. The land remains in withdrawal. Chief Zepp Casaway famously tells governments officials to “pack up their maps and go”.

2000 – Akaitcho Framework Agreement signed in 2000 outlining how Lutsel K’e and the Akaitcho Dene will negotiate a claim. One subject matter is Parks and Protected Areas. Chief Felix Lockhart approaches Canada to renew discussions about a proposed National Park in the traditional territory of the Lutsel K’e Dene

2004 – Chief Archie Catholique and his Council formally resolve to enter into negotiations with Canada with the intent of creating a partnership for the planning, operation, and management of a protected area in the traditional territory.

2005 – The Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation approves a portion of its traditional territory (57000 square kms) for consideration as a new National Park. The area is named “Thaidene Nene”, the Land of the Ancestors. The LKDFN also formally approaches Canada through the Akaitcho Process to withdraw Thaidene Nene for further disposition.

Thaidene Nene

2006 – Chief Adeline Jonasson and Parks Canada sign an MOU agreeing to investigate the feasibility of establishing a new National Park in Thaidene Nene

2007 – New, expanded Area of Interest (33,000 km2) for proposed National Park is withdrawn for a five year period. This area is referred to as the East Arm National Park.

East Arm National Park Area of Interest

Currently – Parks Canada planning and feasibility studies (e.g. MERA, operations scenario, impacts/benefits, consultation) and local community training and capacity building are underway. Additionally, the LKDFN have become involved in a collaborative and community driven research project with Nathan Bennett and Dr Harvey Lemelin from Lakehead University in regards to the park.

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