Preserving Tłı̨chǫ culture in the face of declining Barren ground caribou populations

The Tłı̨chǫ people, whose traditional territory lies within the Northwest Territories, have witnessed dramatic climate change impacts on their most culturally and socially important animal, the ekwò or barrenland caribou (also referred to as the Barren ground or Bathurst caribou). The Tłı̨chǫ people depend on the caribou herd not only for food, but also for clothing and equipment. This keystone species, located at the centre of Tłı̨chǫ culture, is in rapid decline and climate change is playing a significant role. To protect the barrenland caribou, and in turn the Tłı̨chǫ culture, the Tłı̨chǫ Government and the Government of the Northwest Territories placed a ban on barrenland caribou harvest in 2015, which is still in effect. Due to the decline of caribou, the Tłı̨chǫ people do not go to the barrenlands as often, where they share traditional knowledge, learn the language and go hunting with their families. The Tłı̨chǫ Government, with support from Indigenous Services Canada, initiated the Tłı̨chǫ Dǫtaàts’eedı program (“to share food among the people”) in 2018 in all four Tłı̨chǫ communities. The program pairs young adults with experienced harvesters to go fishing, hunting, trapping, snaring and berry picking. Food that is harvested is brought to the community and distributed by the youth to Elders. The program not only addresses the impacts of climate change, but also does so in a way that reinforces food security, and Tłı̨chǫ values and culture.

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