“The Institute for Circumpolar Health Research’s summer students, Sophie Roher and Thomsen D’Hont, attended the 45th Dene National Assembly from July 20th – 24th, 2015.
The Dene National Assembly convenes annually in July and is hosted by a different community within Denendeh (Northwest Territories) each year. This year, the charter community of Délįne hosted the Assembly. The community of Délįne (pop. 472) is the only community on the shores of the vast Great Bear Lake, which is the fourth largest lake in North America. Délįne is located on the southwestern corner of Great Bear Lake on the Keith Arm, near the start of the Great Bear River.
The purpose of the Dene National Assembly is for Dene from the thirty Dene communities spanning across the five Dene regions of Denendeh to get together to strengthen cultural ties within the Dene Nation, to strengthen Dene national sovereignty and to address concerns within the Dene Nation. Meetings cover topics such as health, economic development, climate change and in-house political proceedings. Also, there are presentations by representatives from different sectors of territorial government, Ministers of the territorial government, and non-governmental organizations in the Northwest Territories.
Sophie and Thomsen had an unforgettable week at the National Assembly! They were blown away by the stunning natural beauty of the Sahtu region and by how welcoming and generous the community was. Sophie and Thomsen learned a lot about the inner workings of the Dene Nation within territorial and federal contexts and they also had the pleasure of meeting many Dene chiefs, delegates, and government officials during their stay in Délįne. Sophie and Thomsen were excited to network with others at the assembly and to explain their summer project working on a proposal for a territorial Aboriginal Wellness Centre. The Assembly was also an opportunity for them to meet with one of their mentors and project advisors, François Paulette, who is also the Chair of the Stanton Territorial Health Authority’s Elders’ Advisory Council.
One of the biggest highlights of the trip was getting to experience traditional Dene hand games and drum dances. Equally exciting was the daily traditional food cookout: during each lunchtime throughout the week there was a bonanza of fish, caribou and moose parts grilling over an open fire, alongside fry-bread sizzling in cast-iron skillets.
Probably the biggest highlight of the trip was going out fishing on the pristine glassy waters of Great Bear Lake. One evening after the meetings were finished, a community member took Sophie and Thomsen out fishing on Great Bear Lake. Within moments of setting out their lines the trout started to bite. All said and done Sophie and Thomsen hauled in ten extremely fat lake trout to provide for the next day’s lunchtime cookout. Fisherwoman Sophie and Fisherman Thomsen both caught 14-pound trout! Not bad, especially considering it was Sophie’s first time fishing! ”