Dene Béré (Country Foods) Campaign

Regions: Sahtu Settlement Area, Qikiqtaaluk Region

Tags: health, social sciences, climate change, traditional knowledge, food security

Principal Investigator: Andrew, Leon (5)
Licence Number: 17014
Organization: Sahtu Renewable Resources Board
Licensed Year(s): 2022
Issued: Apr 29, 2022
Project Team: Leon Andrew, Deborah Simmons, Daniel Jackson, Rhea McDonald, Joseph Kochon, Gordon Yakeleya, Ed Reeves, Alyssa Bougie, Jessie Yakeleya, Catarina Owen, Manisha Singh, Mylène Ratelle, Kelly Skinner

Objective(s): To support adaptation of Dene be´re´ (Dene be´re´) systems to climate change through a harvesting and sharing program that includes hunters, women and youth.

Project Description: This licence has been issued for the scientific research application No.5048.

The aim of this project is to support adaptation of Dene be´re´ (Dene be´re´) systems to climate change through a harvesting and sharing program that includes hunters, women and youth. To do so, the research team propose to increase the communication of knowledge on Dene be´re´ and to build a community harvesting pilot program in each of the five Sahtu´ communities. The success of this initiative for food security and community views on climate change adaptation/food security needs will be documented through surveys with program participants.

Activities and results Work plan
A regional coordinator will support the project. The Dene Be´re´ Campaign will include the following types of activities:
1) Development of communication for Dene be´re´ knowledge (year 1): The research team would take this opportunity to share knowledge already collected and currently available regarding Dene be´re´ through initiatives defined by partners (eg. harvest study, harvesting calendar, maps of harvesting sites). A structure to facilitate sharing is already in place, the Ne? K’? Dene Ts'il? i ? - Living on the Land Forum, and would guide these activities:
• A regional Ne? K’? Dene Ts'il?i? Forum meeting, and regular teleconferences to share experiences and monitor progress;
• Plain language communication material for knowledge sharing (visual and informational written material and video material).
This component will require support from a coordinator based at the Sahtu Renewable Resources Board (SRRB). Youth would be invited to take a lead role in the note taking and the creation of the material. The material would be validated by a committee involving Elders and Indigenous Guardians.
2) Mentoring to improve skills related to harvesting (years 1-4): Knowledgeable harvesters will mentor youth in each of the five Sahtu´ communities. These junior harvesters will learn harvesting practices (hunting, setting snares, and fishing), traditional environmental knowledge of the region, and food preparation. Based on the most recent recommendations obtained during the Colville 2020 Public Listening Session, Ne? K’?´di ´Ke training, locally led hunter education and mentorship by Guardians were identified as priorities in the region. Each partnering ?ehdzo Got’i?ne? would implement the initiative.
3) Community harvesting and sharing program (years 1-4): Dene be´re´ sharing improves food security. A community harvesting program would be initiated in each of the five communities. Each partnering Renewable Resource Committee (RRC) would implement the initiative. Hunters will harvest and share food with community members. Each community will run their own program, and develop ways to encourage the commitment and engagement of not just the harvesters but also of everyone in the community (i.e., food preparation, skin preparation, etc.). Technical details would be derived from the Climate Change and Health Adaptation Program (CCHAP) harvest project led by the Tlic?ho? government (ie. safety measures, types of remuneration, etc.).
4) Women’s Dene Be´re´ Circle (years 2-3): Women have a key role to play as they are the decision-makers around maintaining the food and nutritional security of their households and communities; and manage the stability of food supplies (Women Watch, 2012). Circles are known to be important spaces for Dene and Me´tis women to gather regularly and share knowledge and skills. A Dene Be´re´ Circle will serve as a similar kind of venue for preparing and sharing Dene be´re´ and knowledge. It will be a great opportunity to discuss topics identified by the group related to impacts of climate change on food security, women’s roles in food systems, and ways that women and families are learning to adapt to changes in food systems caused by climate change including achieving good nutrition and promoting healthy living. It is also an opportunity to explore the perceptions around Dene be´re´ and key reasons for consuming Dene be´re´ (ie. low in fat, traditional, spiritual, good for physical health, etc.). One Dene Be´re´ Circle will be co-organised by the SRRB and the Sahtu´ gender-based working group. Workshops will be organized in three different districts: a) Deline, b) Tulit’a and Norman Wells, c) Fort Good Hope and Colville Lake.
5) Evaluation framework and survey (years 1-5): An evaluation framework will be collaboratively developed with the Ne? K’? Dene Tsílí? Forum in Year 1. A checklist of deliverable (goals and metrics) will be created (e.g., how many hunts, kg of shared food, what food is shared, etc.) and used every year by the RRC to ensure the harvest program is on-track. One survey will also be refined and used at the start and at the end of the program to assess the success of the project. A cohort of 20-30 people in each community (n=125) will be selected and contacted each year to complete the survey. If needed, to reduce the risks posed by Covid-19, the survey can be done online. This survey will be based on the Food Security survey already used in Tuli´t’a, and will estimate if community members have improved access to Dene be´re´. This survey will be refined to also gather information on the experience of people participating in the program (i.e., harvesters, youth, Elders), and to collect information on how the benefits might last over time.

The program will be completed over four years. During the first year, we will collectively develop the technical objectives, deliverables and evaluation framework for the program, and facilitate the program initiation in each of the five Sahtu´ communities. Then, during multi years, each community will run their harvesting program, while the core team will create and disseminate the communication material, and assess every year if the deliverables are met in each community, and how to improve the program. A harvesting program of at least two or more full harvesting calendars is essential to account for the harvest variability over the years. In addition, it takes multiple years to perfect the model for a harvesting program and get the community buy-in for the process. The final year of the project will be the period to assess the overall success of the program through a survey, and to draft a report on lessons and recommendations. The results of the survey will be integrated into the planning and development of a sustainable program through continuous funding.

Expected Deliverables and Outcomes
The main outcome from this proposed initiative is to create training opportunities to increase knowledge and skills for participants in the region to facilitate the harvesting of Dene be´re´ and to increase community member access to Dene be´re´. The development and dissemination of material and resources to promote Dene be´re´ use will be prepared in collaboration with the On the Land Unit. Other specific deliverables are presented in the Table above.

Future work and next steps
Short term: Once the program core is set (logistics) and assessed (metrics, long term benefits), then the region could expand on the scope of the program. For example, the CCHAP Tlic? ho? harvest program offers community service hours for youth participating in the program (if needed). More will also be in collaboration with our partners to integrate other traditional practices (wood chopping; plant medicines). In parallel, other on the land programs related to language revitalization and cross-cultural knowledge sharing will be organized. There is also an interest in creating digital stories about harvesting locations. Finally, working with public health experts, the research team would like to document how this type of program would benefit the health of the community by documenting disease prevalence (e.g., rickets) pre/post program. If the proposed project is funded, the team will approach other complementary funders/funding sources, which include: Canada Summer Jobs, CanNor, Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) departments (Environments and Natural Resources, Industry, Tourism and Investment, Health and Social Services, Education, Culture and Employment), On the Land Unit and the NWT On The Land Collaborative fund, Department of Health of Social Services On the Land Healing Fund and Mitacs.

This program will also be the first step in building the organizational structure and capital to then transfer the program on food security and Dene be´re´ access to the Indigenous Guardians. The Indigenous Guardians program and the Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCA), are co-initiatives in the region to recognize the importance of Indigenous People in protecting the Land. These institutional funding initiatives are sustainable.

In addition, following the implementation of the harvesting model, the communities are interested in looking for opportunities for food security hubs that would include community freezers and harvesting equipment sharing model, to facilitate the harvesting and sharing of food. There are other initiatives similar to this happening elsewhere in the North that are promoting harvesting (e.g., Tlic?ho? region, Clyde River). Delegates from these initiatives would benefit from gathering together to exchange knowledge and design a Canada wide program foundation for northern/remote/Indigenous communities.

Long term: This initiative has the potential to greatly improve the food security challenge in the North and help adapt to climate change, while promoting a traditional lifestyle for Indigenous communities. The SRRB and the academic collaborators would like to participate in discussion on continuous/recurrent territorial and federal funding.

Two-way communications and co-development are central to this project. The communications associated with this project will be guided by the input from the forum engagement activities. The research team would provide the community contacts (decision-makers) with bi-monthly phone/email updates of the progress. Additionally, the team will co-develop and share the promotional material by email with study partners, community leaders and regional partners. The team will also post regular updates about the promotion of the program and the on-going activities (during the program), and the program evaluation findings (during and after the program) on social media accounts to have an online presence.

Results will be communicated to partnering communities through a combination of various media (which may include posters, newsletters, public presentations, presentations at schools and to partnering organisations, video and Facebook posts) as directed by the project team and partnering communities, and depending on team capacity. The project will be featured on the Sahtu Renewable Resources Board website, The research team will also take opportunities to present to the larger NWT public opportunistically through conferences.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from April 28, 2022 to February 6, 2022