Funded Research Projects

Feeding Our Fires: Northern Indigenous Voice on Land & Life

Ndè Sı̀ı̀ Wet’aɂà: Northern Indigenous Voices on Land, Life & Art is a collection of essays, interviews, short stories, and poetry written by emerging and established northern Indigenous writers and artists. Centered on land, cultural practice and northern life, this ground-breaking collection shares wealth of Dene (Gwich’in, Sahtú, Dehcho, Tłı̨chǫ, Saysi, Kaska, Dënesųłiné, Wıìlıìdeh) Inuit, Alutiiq, Inuvialuit, Métis, Nêhiyawak (Cree), Northern Tutchone, and Tanana Athabascan creative brilliance. Ndè Sı̀ı̀ Wet’aɂà holds up the voices of women and Two-Spirit and Queer writers to create a chorus of voices reflecting a deep love of Indigenous cultures, languages, homelands, and the north.

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Land Based Education in the Era of COVID-19

With funding from the Mastercard foundation, Dechinta is creating a series of online workshops and resources addressing the challenges of delivering land based education in the era of the pandemic. Led by Drs. Kelsey Wrightson and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, land based Indigenous educators from the north, and in Canada and the US were interviewed on a variety of topics, including queering land based education. The result of this research and knowledge mobilization project is a series of webinars and a report/toolkit which can be viewed here


Land as Relationship: Cultivating Cross-Struggle Solidarity through Land-Based Practice

This SSHRC Connections Grant, led by Drs. Glen Coulthard and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson,  asks the following questions: how can Dene knowledge, including placed-based ethics, better inform and support solidarity building across multiple communities of justice? How can academics and activists better communicate and mobilize knowledge to these diverse communities, while respecting Indigenous knowledge systems and ethics? How can a connection to land, embodied and practiced in place, further the collective goals of reconciliation that includes multiple communities? In the winter of 2019, the project held a land-based solidarity gathering on YKDFN attending by a number of Indigenous, Black and Brown activists and organizers from Canada and the United States. The global pandemic put some of this research on hold. We were able to host Robyn Maynard in Yellowknife in 2020 for a public lecture and series of workshops.  We continued this work in the form of our Solidarity book club reading Maynard’s Policing Black Lives and Desmond Cole’s The Skin We Are In.  Leanne Betasamosake Simpson and Robyn Maynard were also able to continue this research on their own in a project called Rehearsals for Living. 


Dreaming New Worlds: Indigenous Creative Practice (SSHRC Connections Grant)

Led by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, this project asks: How are community based Indigenous artists integral to the field of Indigenous artistic practice? How can the inclusion of artists working from these locations, often doubly remote in terms of both geographic and economic distances, contribute to the field of Indigenous artistic practice, and the role of Indigenous cultural production in the project of reconciliation more broadly? This research included a land based arts gathering in February 2020 with a public artist talk by Leela Gilday, Asinnajaq, Siku Allooloo, Lianne Charlie, Teya Kocsis, Tania Willard and Erin Sutherland. While COVID-19 has stalled this research, we have continued to work with Northern Indigenous artists in our book project, Feeding our Fires.


Land as Practice Summer Institute (SSHRC Connections Grant)

The Kaska Dena Land as Practice took place in the summer of 2019 in collaboration with called Nío Nę P'énę' Sōdzane'ín. The institute took place in the K'á Tǝ́ area (Backbone of the Mackenzie Mountains) and within the shared territory of the Shúhtaot’ın̨ ę and the Tu Łidlini (Ross River) Dena. We were be based at Dechenla Lodge, located about 30 kilometres east of the Yukon/NWT border, along the Canol Road, and within the extensive willow flats known as K’á Tǝ́. As the Dene names of the lodge and larger area reflects, we were above the tree line and in the heart of the mountains. It is an important place for caribou; at least five different herds of mountain caribou gather here in the summer and fall. We were incredibly happy to be joined by Elders from both sides of the mountains and they shared extensive personal history and knowledge of the area. We were excited to work with new community partners, including Tulıt́ 'a and Norman Wells Ɂehdzo Got'ı̨ nę (Renewable Resources Councils) Ɂehdzo Got’ı̨nę Gots’ę́ Nákedı (Sahtú Renewable Resources Board) with funding from the Lawson Foundation. The program was developed by Dena Elders, who have requested a focus on Dena Law, Sovereignty, Respect for Land and History. Each week had a different focus, with students learning from the extensive teachings and histories. We made drymeat, tanned hides, set nets and listened to the many stories shared by Elders. Students earned credit for two courses from the University of British Columbia. These two courses are the foundation for the Dechinta Certificate in Land and Community Based Research. We are continuing this program in 2021with a series of community based programming around caribou, and a series of initiatives organized by our regional land based coordinator, Josh Baricello. 


Land as Pedagogy: Immersive Education for Dene Life (SSHRC Connections Grant)

This Connections grant was requested by members of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation as a means to research best-practice in Indigenous language learning, innovate and create distinctly Dene pedagogies, and to pilot an immersive language-learning workshop. They developed this project in collaboration with fluent language speakers from the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, creating both the theory and practice of Dene pedagogical innovation around land, language, and storytelling. Drs. Leanne Betasamosake Simpson and Kelsey Wrightson coordinated this research project. 


Initiatives for Indigenous Futures (SSHRC Partnership Grant)

Initiatives for Indigenous Futures is a seven-year SSHRC partnership grant led by Dr. Jason Edward Lewis from Concordia University that operates in partnership with universities and community organizations to develop multiple visions of Indigenous presence and futures across terrains of cyberspace (online environments, virtual realities, video games, social media). The project is based out of Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace, a research network based out of Concordia University, and has four main components –workshops, residencies, symposia, and archives. It aims to encourage artists, academics, youth, and elders to imagine how Indigenous communities will take shape in the future. Dechinta has hosted workshops with our IIF partners, integrating the work of indigenous artists, coders and designers into our curriculum, and connecting emerging northern scholars with research, residency and workshop opportunities in relation to this exciting research grant.  Dr. Kelsey Wrightson is collaborating on this grant on behalf of Dechinta.


Sustainable Water Governance and Indigenous Law (SSHRC Partnership Grant)

Sustainable Water Governance and Indigenous law is a seven-year SSHRC partnerships grant led by Dr. Karen Bakker from UBC. Dechinta is a research partner on this grant. This research project was created to respond to the urgent need to improve water governance in the north, which is a critical issue for many reasons. Our research team members share a collective commitment to protecting our waters, sharing our experiences, and deepening our alliances. In fall 2017, Dechinta hosted a water bush camp with our research partners, indigenous leaders and scientists, exploring the shared values, projects and results of our ongoing work. Our long-term goal is to create a self-sustaining water and ecological monitoring program that will enhance protection of water resources and fulfill the promise of indigenous water governance. We engage in interdisciplinary, and indigenous-led co-research on water, including its ecological, socio-economic, cultural, and spiritual dimensions. Dr. Kelsey Wrightson is collaborating on this grant on behalf of Dechinta.


21st Century Borders (SSHRC Partnership Grant Applicant, Stage 2)

Led by Dr. Emmanuel Brunet-Jailly from the University of Victoria, Drs. Leanne Betasamosake Simpson and Glen Coulthard are collaborating on this grant proposal on behalf of Dechinta. Debates continue about how to theorize the changing nature of borders in a globalizing world. Concepts such as ‘the vacillating border,’ ‘mobile’ borders or ‘borders in motion’ have been predominant; however, these discussions remain fundamentally state-centric and, importantly, while grappling with the idea of ‘territorial trap’, they do not go beyond a statist-territory-based logic; they remain fundamentally landlocked. Cutting-edge research, however, shows that borders and bordering processes are increasingly networked, mobile and functional. Borders and their reach are no longer strictly contiguous, tied to state territoriality, or bound to geography. The objectives of this research program are to: (a) foster and integrate policy/professional and academic research, training and publications on the rapidly evolving field of border studies; (b) maintain and enhance Canada’s prominence as a thought and policy leader in border studies; (c) generate theoretical, empirical and policy-relevant expertise required for the momentous paradigm shift to understand bordering processes from a state-centric and territory-based logic to an emerging relational and mobile logic in the field of border studies; and (d) train and network 138 students/post-doctoral fellows. 21st Century Borders aims to create the largest research network of policy makers and academics in border studies worldwide. 


Our partnered knowledge mobilization will coproduce comparative and policy-relevant research with international cross-border organizations in Africa, Australasia, Europe, North America, Latin America and South Asia, and connect this research with knowledge-users. The partnership brings together border policy actors and academics. It includes 11 intergovernmental and transnational organizations plus co-applicants from 13 universities in 9 countries. The partners have committed contributions totalling over $3.1 million to this proposed partnership. They will collectively and collaboratively develop new knowledge; co-define policy research priorities; and co-organize worldwide knowledge diffusion by training international policy professionals and students and through open-access policy briefs, data sets, and scholarly publications, plus podcasts, videos, and social media.