Dechinta Fall 2020
We were back on Mackenzie Island, the traditional territory of the Yellowknives Dene First Nations, for our Fall 2020 Semester. This program was accredited through the University of British Columbia and students had the opportunity to work towards a 15 credit Certificate in Land and Community Based Research. Because of Covid-19 we adapted our program to include both online and land-based teaching. Students had the opportunity to read and watch Northern Indigenous books and movies, engage with written pieces in the Dechinta workbook, music and films while also having the chance to meet each of the authors including Tunchai Redvers, Althea Arnaquq Baril, Joe Sacco and Lianne Charlie.
During our land based section of the course we were out on Tı̨ndeè (Great Slave Lake) on an island known as Mackenzie Island or Horseshoe Island. Our Dechinta community included Dene Elders, YKDFN community leaders, Dechinta staff, academic Professors, kids and a great cohort of students from across the North. The students had the opportunity to learn many land based activities including how to tan moose and muskox hides, set and pull fish nets, make dry meat, work on handmade tools such as pocket knives and tanning tools, harvest medicines, go on hunting trips, learn the Wiìliìdeh language and create many projects including fish scale art, beading, mini birch bark canoes as well as write Dene songs. In addition to these land-based activities, students were able to experience the ways in which our Elders and ancestors used to live on the land together including how to run a camp. They learned important skills from how to chop wood to bring to the Elders tents, to helping our cooks prepare and clean up after meals. When students weren’t participating in land-based activities, they were in the classroom wall tent with our professors Leanne Betasamosake Simpson and Glen Coulthard engaging with topics such as Indigenous Self-Determination, Decolonization, Resurgence, Storytelling and the importance of Land and Land Based Learning. Students would then reflect and connect these topics to what they were learning together on the land with the community we created for their assignments. Leela Gilday joined us as a guest instructor for a week of Indigenous Arts, including songwriting and storytelling. We also had many incredible Indigenous guests and speakers visit the island including, Maro Sundberg, Fred Sangris, Kristen Tanche, YKDFN Chief and Council members as well Northern politicians MP Michael McLeod and the Minister of Education MLA RJ Simpson.
Mahsi Cho to our bush experts Gordie Liske, Randy Baillargeon, Charlie Sangris, Archie Sangris, Archie Liske, John Crapeau, and Paul Mackenzie; our land based coordinator team Kyla LeSage, Noel Cockney and Charlene Liske; our Professors Leanne Betasamosake Simpson and Glen Coulthard; our elders Berna Martin and Madeline Judas, our cooks Irene Sangris and Belinda Michel and our Kids Programmers Justina Black, Rena Mainville and Kynyn Doughty. Also, Mahsi Cho to our incredible ED Kelsey Wrightson for making sure we were all fed, warm and organized for our program and Mahsi Cho amazing photographer Morgan Tsetta who captured these amazing moments during our time together on the land.