Dedats’eetsaa: Tłįchǫ Research & Training Institute
Dedats’eetsaa is a sacred site on the trail to Mesa Lake between Tikwooti ( Brown Water Lake) and Tsı̨k’eèmìtì (Emile River). A giant rock promontory with an open crevasse at the top rises from the river and dominates the surrounding landscape. Dedats’eetsaa, has always drawn people to climb the rock to the crevasse where it was soon learned that it could be used as a cache or repository to keep valuable items safely where they would not be disturbed by the animals. People would place things here for safe-keeping until they returned to retrieve them as they travelled along this traditional trail.
Dedats’eetsaa was chosen as a metaphor for the Tłįchǫ Research & Training Institute as it speaks to the importance for our people to travel along a traditional path and retrieve the knowledge of our elders to use in our modern world. Like Dedats’eetsaa, the research and training institute is intended to be a repository for all things related to our language, culture and way of life, and will be useful for new generations as they return along this traditional trail.
“In the days of our Parents, Elders and our Ancestors, they lived according to the traditional laws of sharing what they had among themselves and others. No person was an island, we operated as a collective. We used the land respectively to ensure that there would always be animals on the land and the fish in the waters to sustain us, by making offerings to the land and water in our travels. We depended on the Caribou, so much so that it has defined our language, culture and way of life for all time.
All our major ancestral trails from our summer fisheries take us to the Barren Land in the Fall to meet the caribou returning from the calving grounds. On one of the major trails called the Hozi Deh K’e, on the outflow of Tsiik’e mitii, there is a monumental island called Dedat’seetsaa where we put some things we may need for retrieval on the way back, hence Asii dedats’eetsaa. From there all things needed only for the Barren Land are taken.
Today as we struggle to identify our inherited strengths, we look towards our stories and to the land that hold these testimonials for guidance. When our ancestors traveled the land, they left many things behind to retrieve on the way back for continued use. Our Elders who were raised and lived on the Land are no longer with us, but they have left many stories for us. We need to retrieve from Dedats’eetsaa, what our ancestors have left behind for our continual use by the exercise of our cultural practices.
From Dr. John B. Zoe, Chairperson of Dedats’eetsaa: the Tłı̨chǫ Research & Training Institute (2013)