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Dechinta Faculty and Staff

Elders and Knowledge Holders are the core foundation of how we learn and run programs here at Dechinta. Dechinta programming is defined by, and made possible through, the central role and contributions of Elders and community experts from Northern Indigenous communities. We are committed to taking a community-driven approach to education and research - we provide multi-generational programs that rely upon and celebrate the knowledge of Northern Indigenous Elders, knowledge holders, and community members.

Elders are the backbone of the Dechinta experience and we are so lucky to be surrounded by their brilliance and to learn from their knowledge and wisdom. Dechinta would also like to acknowledge the contributions of Yellowknives Dene First Nation elder Alizette Lockhart, elders from the Yukon/Dechenla - 
Norman Sterriah, Mary Maje, Dorothy Sam, Amos Dick and Fred Andrew, and elders from the Beaufort Delta Region - Noella Cockney, Ronald (Inung) Nuyaviak and Rex Noksana, who have made incredible contributions to our programming and whose work and knowledge has been invaluable to our organization. Mahsi Cho!

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Kelsey Wrightson

Executive Director

Meet Kelsey Wrightson, 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.

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Glen Coulthard

Faculty Member

Glen Coulthard is the founder of Dechinta Centre for research and Learning and has been a faculty and board member for 13 years! Glen 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 a board member and instructor at the Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning.

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Leanne Betasamosake Simpson

Faculty Member

Leanne is a Michi Saagiig Nishnaabe academic, writer and musician who is a member of Alderville First Nation in Ontario. Leanne is a board member at Dechinta and has taught land based education in her own territory for over two decades, and for the last 9 years at Dechinta. Working for two decades as an independent scholar using Nishnaabeg intellectual practices, Leanne has lectured and taught extensively at universities across Canada and the United States and has twenty years experience with Indigenous land based education. She holds a PhD from the University of Manitoba. Leanne is the author of eight books, including A Short History of the Blockade and the novel Noopiming: The Cure for White Ladies which was short listed for the Governor General’s Literary Award for fiction and the Dublin Literary Prize. This Accident of Being Lost was a finalist for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and the Trillium Book Award. Her new project, a collaboration with Robyn Maynard, Rehearsals for Living is a National Best Seller and was short listed for the Governor General’s Literary Award for non-fiction. Leanne is also a musician. Her latest release Theory of Ice was named to the Polaris Prize short list, and she is the 2021 winner of the Prism Prize’s Willie Dunn Award.

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Lianne Marie Leda  Charlie

Faculty Member

Lianne is one of our full-time faculty members at Dechinta Centre! Lianne has been working as a land-based professor at Dechinta since 2021. 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 Benedict Larusson (second 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 and went to school on unceded Lekwungen territories in what is commonly referred to as Victoria, BC. She has a PhD in Political Science from the University of Hawai`i at Mānoa (UHM). Her research focuses on modern treaty politics in the Yukon, where she now lives. Lianne is multimedia artist and mom to Luka Gyo. She has created community murals in Whitehorse, Łu Ghą, Somba K’e, and Mayo; and co-created four pieces for To Talk With Others (Valerie Salez, 2018), including a life-size hot pink papîer maché bull moose made out of the Umbrella Final Agreement. Lianne says: “Dä́ninchi’i. Dechinta has made my journey back to the land possible. I'm so grateful to be part of this team and to learn from and alongside my colleagues, students, Elders, and the land. I am most grateful for the opportunities Dechinta has provided for my son, Luka. I get so much joy from watching him fall in love with the land”

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John Crapeau

Yellowknives Dene First Nation Elder

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Berna Martin

Yellowknives Dene First Nation Elder

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Charlie Sangris

Yellowknives Dene First Nation Elder

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Paul MacKenzie

Yellowknives Dene First Nation Elder

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Kyla LeSage

Land-Based Program and Outreach Coordinator

Meet Kyla LeSage, who has been working as our Land-based Programmer and Outreach Coordinator at Dechinta for the past six years! Kyla is passionate about the transformative impact that land-based education can have on the lives of Indigenous people and communities in the North. Kyla 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. After graduating, she moved back to Yellowknife to work as a land-based and outreach coordinator with Dechinta, where she organizes and runs land-based programs for the public, our students, and in partnership with numerous community organizations.

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Charlene Liske

Director of Traditional Knowledge 

Meet Charlene Liske, our Director of Traditional Knowledge and Cultural Resources at Dechinta! Charlene is a Yellowknives Dene First Nation member from Te?ehdaa, NT. She has 4 children that actively participate in all Dechinta Programming. Charlene graduated high school in Yellowknife and furthered her education in Early Learning and Child care at the Grande Prairie Regional College. She previously has worked with the Yellowknives Dene First Nation as the Community Wellness Programmer, where she is known to coordinate all the special & culture events in the communities of Dettah/Ndilo. Where she was dedicated to working with the youth in her communities. She now sits on the Dettah District Education Authority as the vice-chair person. At her current position with Dechinta she works closely with the elders in her region and coordinates all on the land programming and semesters. She is also in a language revitalization program to strengthen her skills. At Dechinta she loves the environment she works in, everyone feels like family and our kids are involved in all camps. Dechinta Seot’ii (Dechinta Family). Mahsi

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Gordie Liske

Land-Based Educator and Traditional Knowledge Holder

Our staff spotlight this week is Gordie Liske! Gordie has worked at Dechinta as a land-based educator and traditional knowledge holder for the past 12 years. Gordie works hard setting up and maintaining our land-based camps, teaching students land-based knowledge and skills, and harvesting for his community. Gordie 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. Mahsi cho Gordie for all of the dedication and knowledge you continue to bring to Dechinta!

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Randy Baillargeon

Land-based Educator and Traditional Knowledge Holder

Meet Randy Baillargeon, one of our land-based educators, traditional knowledge holders, and community mentors at Dechinta! Randy has been working with Dechinta for the past 8 years. In addition to teaching students cultural knowledge and land-based skills during our post-secondary courses, Randy also harvests year-round for the YKDFN community. He is passionate about his Dene culture and passing on traditional knowledge to the next generation. Randy was born in Yellowknife and has lived in Dettah for his entire life. He is an avid hunter and a strong traditional Dene man who travels across the country for Dene drumming. He is the father to his son Ahfrè, who is already learning how to drum at the early age of one!

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Irene Sangris

Yellowknives Dene First Nation Elder

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Archie Liske

Yellowknives Dene First Nation Elder

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Mary Rose Sundberg

Yellowknives Dene First
Nation Elder

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Madeline Judas

Tłįchǫ Elder

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Josh Barichello

Yukon Regional Programmer  

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.

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Noel-Leigh Cockney 

Safety Coordinator and Regional Programmer for the Beaufort Delta

Meet Noel-Leigh Cockney, our safety coordinator and regional programmer for the Beaufort Delta at Dechinta! Noel is from Tuktoyaktuk and Inuvik, Northwest Territories. His whole life he has grown up along the coast of the Arctic Ocean hunting and fishing. Once he graduated from high school in Inuvik he went to college in Wisconsin, at Northland College, for four years and graduated 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 United States. 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. Noel writes: “Working for Dechinta, it feels like my life has come full circle in two ways: When I was a student in college I was running outdoor education programs, and I always dreamed of having a job like this. Now, I am able to create and run the types of land-based programs I have always dreamed of in my home territory. Second, the camp at Galiptut where we run our Dechinta programs in the Beaufort Delta region is very close to me. My nanuk and daduk (grandma and grandpa) used to take my peers and me out on the land to learn the cultural knowledge and skills that I am now teaching in the programs I am able to run in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region”

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Sydney Krill

Curriculum Developer and Knowledge Mobilization Coordinator

Sydney has worked at Dechinta for the past three years as a curriculum developer, researcher and knowledge mobilization coordinator! Sydney is a settler who was raised in Calgary, Alberta on Treaty 7 territory. During her Master’s degree at the University of Calgary, she focused on gendering and queering how we understand settler colonialism in Canada. She started her PhD at the University of Victoria in Political Science in 2019, but left the program in 2020 to join the team at Dechinta. At Dechinta, Sydney works to create diverse resources for students, the community, and for the public that are informed by the brilliant land-based work happening in the North. In particular, she is passionate about creating resources and curriculum that centre Indigenous queer, two-spirit, and LGTBQ+ individuals, in order to foster land-based learning environments at Dechinta that accept and encourage all forms of gender diversity, and to mobilize and uplift queer Indigenous land-based knowledge, theory, and practices in the North and beyond.

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Thumlee Drybones Foliot

Traditional Knowledge Holder

Thumlee's bio is coming soon!

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Rena Mainville 

Child and Youth Program Coordinator

Meet Rena Mainville, our land-based educator for children and youth at Dechinta! Rena passionately advocates for culturally safe Indigenous land based learning and language revitalization for Indigenous children, families and communities. Rena Mainville is Sahtu Dene and Metis from Tulita in the Northwest Territories of Canada, born and raised in the Northwest Territories. Rena has a bachelor of Early Childhood Care and Education from Capilano University and took Indigenous Studies at Langara College. Rena now works full time with Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning. Rena also lends her voice as a Consultant to the Arctic Athabaskan Council and collaborates with the First Nations Pedagogy Network. Rena loves being on the land learning and sharing knowledge at Dechinta where she creates safe learning spaces for children and youth that supports their overall positive well being.

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Denenize Basil 

Land-based Educator and Traditional Knowledge Holder

Denenize Basil is a land-based educator and traditional knowledge holder at Dechinta! Dene writes: “My name is Denenize Basil. “Denenize” is my traditional name in my language. It means ‘I am among the people and the old ways of life’. I was born in Yellowknife and raised in Lutsel k’e by both my mom and grandparents. I was taught my culture and traditions and was brought up as a young trapper, gatherer, and hunter. I now live in Yellowknife, have a family of my own, and always look for opportunities to go out on the land and pass on everything I know on to my family and all people”

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Morgan Tsetta 

Filmmaker and Photographer

Morgan Tsetta is a Yellowknives Dene First Nation filmmaker and photographer, currently living on unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Watuth Nations, colonially referred to as Vancouver, Canada. With a passion for film, photography, and her Native culture, Morgan is committed to emphasizing the voices of Dene people and the power of self-representation for Indigenous sovereignty. After graduating film school, Morgan began work with Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning as their Digital Media Coordinator to connect with her sub-arctic home community in Denendeh and her Dene culture whilst simultaneously continuing her documentary filmmaking career.

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Rachel Cluderay 

Land-Based Programmer

Rachel was born and raised in Sǫ̀mba K’è (Yellowknife), Denendeh where she still lives today. She is a nêhiyaw-English paddler and land-based learning advocate. In 2019, she completed a Bachelor of Commerce specializing in Entrepreneurship at the University of Victoria. Rachel is Dechinta alumni where she received a certificate in Community Land-Based Research. Currently, Rachel is working on a Masters of Indigenous Land-Based Education at the University of Saskatchewan where her work focuses on the resurgence of Indigenous canoe practices. Rachel is a Land-Based Programmer & Researcher at Dechinta. She is passionate about supporting Indigenous peoples to strengthen their connection to the land as she believes it is foundational for the resurgence of Indigenous cultures, languages, and ways of being

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Kynyn Doughty

Reporting and Evaluation Coordinator

Kynyn's bio is coming soon!

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Elyse Vanderworst

Student Pathway Support

Elyse grew up as a settler on the traditional territory of the Anishnawbe, Haudenosaunee, and Neutral/Attawandaron peoples in Brantford, Ontario. She has lived in the Northwest Territories since 2013, working as a Youth and Family Counsellor in Fort Smith before moving to Inuvik where she was the Child Development Coordinator at the hospital. Elyse has a degree in Sociology and post-grad diploma in Social Service Work. She is also a member of the Inuvik Fire Department with her 1001 certification. Elyse sits on the board of the Association of Social Workers of Northern Canada (ASWNC) to network with and provide support to colleagues across all 3 territories. At Dechinta, Elyse provides support to students and loves being out at camp on the land.

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Rilee-Anne Loyde

Director of Finance and Operations

Rilee-Anne is the Director of Finance and Operations at Dechinta. She is a settler who was born and raised in rural Manitoba on Treaty 1 territory and is currently based in Yellowknife. In 2015, she graduated from the Professional Program of the School of Contemporary Dancers in affiliation with the University of Winnipeg, completing a Bachelor of Arts degree (honours) with a major in Dance. She went on to obtain her Chartered Professional Accounting designation through the CPA Western School of Business. At Dechinta, Rilee-Anne provides support in the areas of finance, operations, and strategic development. She is thankful for the opportunity to learn from Elders and to be a part of the Dechinta community.

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Krista Zawadski

Pre-Doctoral Researcher and Instructor

Krista Ulujuk Zawadski is from Igluligaarjuk (Chesterfield Inlet) and Rankin Inlet, Nunavut. She identifies as an Inuk curator, anthropologist, arts leader, researcher, scholar and writer. Her areas of expertise are Arctic anthropology, collections based research, storywork, Inuit curatorial research and practice. Krista’s outlook, research and work are deeply rooted in her upbringing in Nunavut, and she feels it reflects in many aspects of her work.

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Mandee MacDonald

Pre-Doctoral Researcher and Instructor

Mandee McDonald is a hide tanner, facilitator, and a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Native Studies at the University of Alberta where her work focuses on Indigenous governance and land-based learning. She is a co-founder and the Managing Director for Dene Nahjo, an Indigenous innovation collective that strives to foster Indigenous leadership skills and values through resurgence-based initiatives. ​ Mandee is Maskîkow (Swampy Cree), originally from Mántéwisipihk (Churchill, MB), and has resided in Sòmba K’è (Yellowknife) for the past twenty years. Her writing has been published in Decolonization: Indigeneity and Education Society, Northern Public Affairs, and in Visions of the Heart: Issues Involving Indigenous Peoples in Canada 5th Edition.

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