Faculty and Staff

Dechinta programming is defined by, and made possible through, the central role and contributions of Elders and community experts from Northern Indigenous communities. Our approach to research and education is community-driven, providing multi-generational programs that rely upon and celebrate the knowledge of Northern Indigenous Elders, knowledge holders, and community members.

Mary-Rose Sundberg is the granddaughter of Chief Baptise Madzii Drygeese, Chief Drygeese, who  signed the treaty of 1921 (Treaty 8). Her father worked at Giant Mine. She has dedicated her life to the transmission of her language and traditions to other generations. Mary-Rose is the Executive director of the Goyatiko Language Society in Téɂehdaà (Dettah). She is also an interpretor/translator, language specialist, community leader, and an instructor at Dechinta. She teaches language and history.

    Mary-Rose Sundberg    

Paul McKenzie is an Elder and on-the-land Instructor at Dechinta. Paul is a member of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation. He is very knowledgeable about Dene protocols and bush medicine.

    Paul MacKenzie    

Berna Martin is an Elder who often supports students during our on-the-land programs at Dechinta, sharing her language and dry fish making skills with the students. She is a member of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation and is a translator who often shares her Wiiliideh language with the students. She has worked in community radio for many decades and frequently speaks on community radio. She works with language and the land, and is happy to support all students and their love for the land. 

    Berna Martin    

Sam Gargan is an Elder born and raised in Redknife. Sam shares his vast knowledge of Dene politics as well as his bush skills with students. Sam is a former MLA and Deh Cho Grand Chief.

    Sam Gargan    

Glen Coulthard is Yellowknives Dene and an associate professor in the First Nations and Indigenous Studies Program and the Departments of Political Science at the University of British Columbia. He is the author of Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014), winner of the 2016 Caribbean Philosophical Association’s Frantz Fanon Award for Outstanding Book, the Canadian Political Science Association’s CB Macpherson Award for Best Book in Political Theory in 2014/2015, and the Rik Davidson Studies in Political Economy Award for Best Book in 2016. He is also a board member and instructor at the Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning.

    Glen Coulthard    

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson is a Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg scholar, writer, musician and member of Alderville First Nation. She is the author of seven previous books, including newly released, A Short History of the Blockade, and the novel Noopiming: A Cure for White Ladies which was released in the US in 2021 by the University of Minnesota Press.  Leanne has released four albums including f(l)ight and Noopiming Sessions, and her new work Theory of Ice. Her latest book, co-authored with Robyn Maynard and entitled Rehearsals for Living: Conversations on Abolition and Anti-Colonialism, is forthcoming in 2022. Leanne works with the Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning as an instructor. 

    Leanne Simpson    

    Kelsey Wrightson    

Kelsey Wrightson is the Executive Director of Dechinta. She is based in Yellowknife, but works closely with all the regional programmers. Kelsey grew up in Edmonton Alberta, and completed her PhD at the University of British Columbia in 2015. After finishing school, she worked for a year with Dylan Robinson at Queen’s University in the Centre for Indigenous Arts, and then returned to UBC and worked for 2 years in research grant administration. 

Noel-Leigh Cockney is from Tuktoyaktuk and Inuvik, NWT. His whole life he has grown up along the coast of the Arctic Ocean hunting and fishing. Once he graduated high school in Inuvik he went to college in Wisconsin, at Northland College, for four years graduating with a major in Outdoor Education and minor in Native American Studies. After graduating, he  worked for six years for NOLS, instructing backpacking, rock climbing, and whitewater canoeing courses all over the USA. He moved back home in the winter of 2018, working in tourism for over two years, before finding his current position at the Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning as their Safety Coordinator and Regional Programmer.

Kyla LeSage is Vuntut Gwitchin from Old Crow, Yukon, and Anishinaabe from Garden River, Ontario. She grew up on Chief Drygeese Territory in Yellowknife, NT. Kyla is a Dechinta alumni where she received credits towards her UBC Degree in Political Science and Indigenous Studies. She now works full time for Dechinta as the Land Based Academic and Regional Outreach Coordinator. 

    Kyla LeSage    

Noel-Leigh Cockney is from Tuktoyaktuk and Inuvik, NWT. His whole life he has grown up along the coast of the Arctic Ocean hunting and fishing. Once he graduated high school in Inuvik he went to Northland College in Wisconsin for four years, graduating with a major in Outdoor Education and minor in Native American Studies. After graduating, he worked for six years for NOLS, instructing backpacking, rock climbing, and whitewater canoeing courses all over the USA. He moved back home in the winter of 2018, working in tourism for over two years, before finding his current position at the Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning as their Safety Coordinator and Regional Programmer.

    Noel-Leigh Cockney    

Chloe Dragon Smith was born and raised in Somba K’é (Yellowknife), Denendeh (Northwest Territories). Of Métis, German, Dënesųłiné, and French heritage, her mother is Brenda Dragon and her father is Leonard Smith. She is passionate about relationships between Lands and Peoples. Her work varies from education and on-the-Land learning to Indigenous-led conservation to climate change. As a mixed-blood person, she feels a sense of responsibility to help create balance and build bridges and relationships in all she does. 

    Chloe Dragon Smith    

Charlene Liske is a Yellowknives Dene First Nation member from Te?ehdaa, NT. Charlene graduated from St. Patrick high School in 2002 and continued her studies at Grande Prairie Regional College in the Early Learning & Child Care Program for 2 years. She is a proud mother of 4 children. Charlene & her husband continue to teach their children their traditional way of life living off the land. She has worked with the Yellowknives Dene First Nation for the last 10 years as the Community Wellness Programmer, where she is known to coordinate all the special & culture events in the communities of Dettah/Ndilo. She now sits on the Dettah District Education Authority as the vice-chair person. She has also sat on the Mackenzie Recreation Association Executive Board for the North Salve Region and on the Dechinta Board of Directors. Now she is employed with Dechinta as the Lands and Culture Resource Director. 

    Charlene Liske    

Justina Black is a member of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, born and raised in Yellowknife NWT. Her grandmother was Tłı̨chǫ Dene, and her grandfather was Tetsǫ́t’ıné Dene. They were raised in hide tents in the thick boreal forests that blanket over Denendeh. She has spent the majority of her life involved in land-based education, having attended the community school of Ndilǫ. Justina is passionate about learning from elders and knowledge holders to pass on the teaching to youth who she engages with in the Dechinta community.

    Justina Black    

Gordie Liske is Wıı̀lıı̀deh Yellowknives Dene from the Yellowknives Dene First Nation.  He is a traditional hunter and trapper, and is passionate about drumming and teaching. Gordie lives in T'è?ehdaà.

    Gordie Liske    

Morgan Tsetta is a Vancouver-based filmmaker and photographer. She works with Dechinta, documenting our land-based activtiies, and developing curriculum and research materials. Morgan is committed to emphasizing the voice of Dene peopples, and the power of self-representation for Indigenous sovereignty. 

Morgan Tsetta

Randy Baillargeon is a member of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, and is the Land-Based Coordinator and Community Mentor at the Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning. He loves teaching Dechinta students and youth in his community how to hunt, trap, set and check fish nets, and how to drum and sing.  As much as he loves teaching, he is also always learning from others, which is why he loves to help the Dechinta Elders with various building project on the land. Randy is a talented drummer and singer, you may recognize him from community drum dances or opening prayer songs. In addition to drumming and singing, Randy loves making drums, which he learned from his family.  

    Randy Baillargeon    

Thumlee Drybones-Foliot is Denesułine from Yellowknives Dene First Nation as well as part settler. She is an alumni of Dechinta 2016 and 2018 cohorts. 

    Thumlee Drybones-Foliot    

Lianne Marie Leda Charlie is Wolf Clan and Tagé Cho Hudän | Big River People (Northern Tutchone speaking people of the Yukon). Her maternal grandparents are Donna Olsen (first generation Canadian of Danish ancestry) and Benjamin Larusson (first generation Canadian of Icelandic ancestry) and her paternal grandparents are Leda Jimmy of Tánintsę Chú Dachäk | Little Salmon River and Big Salmon Charlie of Gyò Cho Chú | Big Salmon River. She was born in Whitehorse to her mother, Luanna Larusson, and late father, Peter Andrew Charlie. Lianne grew up on the unceded Lekwungen territories in what is commonly referred to as Victoria, BC, where she went to school and university. She is a PhD Candidate in the Indigenous Politics Program in the Political Science Department at the University of Hawai`i at Mānoa (UHM). Her research focuses on modern treaty politics in the Yukon. Lianne is mom to Luka Gyo and a multimedia artist. She has created community murals in Whitehorse, Łu Ghą, and Mayo and co-created four pieces for To Talk With Others (Valerie Salez), including a life-size hot pink papîer maché bull moose made out of the Umbrella Final Agreement. Lianne is a faculty member in the Indigenous Governance Degree Program at Yukon University and on the board for Dechinta: Centre for Research and Learning.  

    Lianne Marie Leda   Charlie  

Josh Barichello is a settler who grew up on the territories of the Kaska Dena, Shúhtaot'ine, and Kwanlinn Dunn. For the past 10 years, Josh has worked with the Ross River Dena Elders Council on various Indigenous Knowledge projects, and on developing and facilitating land-based education programs. He is also currently pursuing an MA in Geography at UBC. Josh currently works for Dechinta from the Dena community of Tu Łidlini (Ross River) where he lives and works, as a regional programmer.

    Josh Barichello    

Sydney Krill is a settler who grew up in Calgary, Alberta on Treaty 7 territory. During her MA at the University of Calgary, she focused on understanding how white women were and are critical actors in creating and upholding the settler colonial state of Canada. She began her PhD at the University of Victoria in 2019 but decided to take a leave from academia and pursue on-the-ground work instead. She is excited to be involved with the amazing team at Dechinta as a researcher and curriculum developer. 

    Sydney Krill