Eco-Cultural Celebrations Camp at Nahanni National Park Reserve
It was just past midnight in the northern twilight when a young man’s eyes met a black bear’s. The bear safety training came in handy at this moment as the youth raised his arms to appear bigger to the
Eco-Cultural Celebrations Camp © Parks Canada
curious young bear approaching the camp, approximately 25 meters away. The bear ran off and Park Biologist Doug Tate took the opportunity to give an experiential lesson on bear bangers to the adrenaline filled group of youth. All of this took place in Nahanni National Park Reserve as we marked Parks Canada’s centennial through our Eco-Cultural Celebrations Camp. Fifteen youth, aged 12-19 from across the Dehcho region of the Northwest Territories gathered at Rabbitkettle Lake for a week of science, safety and cultural instruction. Local Dene elders taught traditional ecological knowledge and wilderness survival skills, while park staff and an Aboriginal Aquatic Resource and an Oceans Management (AAROM) representative, Bruce Townsend, delivered the science and safety modules. There was no shortage of activity during free time either, as students took full advantage of the clear, cool mountain lake for swimming, canoeing, or exploring with masks & snorkels.
Doug Tate showing a topographical map © Parks Canada
The camp was organized together with the Nahanni Butte Dene Band and Parks Canada and supported through the annual Dehcho First Nations Ecology Camp project.
The purpose was to instil a sense of stewardship and responsibility. Camp objectives were to encourage the youth to pursue education and careers in science and/or natural resource protection, to gain a high school credit for fully participating in the camp, to increase traditional ecological knowledge, as well as to instil a sense of stewardship and responsibility in the protection of natural areas like Nahanni National Park Reserve.
Cultural activities included traditional Dene games, amazing Dene stories of the area and how people traditionally took care of the land and continue to maintain Dene principles., Medicinal plant use and identification, fish harvesting, preparations and cooking and some creative expression using moose hide were among the activities enjoyed by students and staff alike. Science modules included terrestrial and aquatic ecology, monitoring techniques, parks management approaches, stewardship principles, and use of GPS, maps & compass.
Another aim of the camp was to introduce park visitors to cultural activities to enhance their understanding of the local Dene culture still practiced within the park.
The Eco-Cultural Celebrations camp was a success and an exceptional experience for the youth, who gained knowledge and experience in science and culture, along with earning a high school credit. Furthermore, it was a unique opportunity for visitors to engage with Dene stewards of the land and connect with the youth of NNPR. A big thanks to all staff and volunteers!