Ekwǫ̀ Nàxoèhdee K’è: Boots on the Ground

Environmental Monitoring, Traditional Knowledge, Health and Wellness, Language and Culture

2020 Season Update: The Ekwǫ̀ Nàxoèhdee K’è 2020 program started late this year due to COVID-19. We began on July 28 and wrapped up on Sept 28. Over the two-month period, 40 Tłı̨chǫ participants were hired to fill various positions at two caribou monitoring camps: Kokètì (Contwoyto Lake) and Deèzàatì (Point Lake). Our Tłı̨chǫ Citizens consisted of Elders, cooks, bear monitors, camp helpers, researchers, research assistants, boat drivers and youth. This year we had 5 monitoring teams; each monitoring team completed a 3-week rotation. This is an increase from last year which only had 3 teams. For the new camp at Deèzàatì, we built a meeting cabin/kitchen and brought in two boats. At the Kokètì camp, the cabin/kitchen structure was improved upon as well.  Since we had two camps running at the same time this year, (one camp in the Bathurst Range area and the other going into the Bluenose East Range area) the coordinating staff were kept very busy.

This summer we were excited to host a couple of Tłı̨chǫ Government leadership team members (Grand Chief Mackenzie and Chief Football) who took time from their busy schedule to visit the Kokètı̀ (Contwoyto Lake) camp in late August.

We are very happy that everyone worked safe over the two months and were able to return home without incident. Thank you everyone for working as a team to conduct important research on the caribou.

Camp participants: Ahri Ekendia, Albert Nitsiza, Albina Nitsiza, Archie Isermansky, Archie Zoe-Beaulieu, Avery Huskey, Camilia Zoe-Chocolate, Charlie Eyakfwo, Chief Charlie Football, Cody S Mantla, Darrell Chocolate, Doreen Liske, Eddie Erasmus, Ernie Wedawin, Eva Mantla, Grand Chief George Mackenzie, James Lafferty, Janelle Nitsiza, Jasmine Blackduck, Jimmy P Mantla, JJ Simpson, Joe Lazare Zoe, Johnny Boline, Joseph Judas, Joseph Whane, Keanu Lafferty, Leon Ekendia, Louis Zoe, Louisa Nitsiza, Michael Huskey, Michel Louis Rabesca, Nora Ekendia, Peter Huskey, Peter Nitsiza, Robert Nitsiza, Roy Judas, Russell Drybones, Therese Zoe, and Victor Huskey.

In addition to the camp participants, TG staff and consultants who worked on planning, coordinating and assisting with this special project include Tyanna Steinwand, Terrell Knapton-Pain, Lydiah Rabesca, Petter Jacobsen, Michael Birlea, Stephanie Behrens, John Nishi, Karin Clark (GNWT ENR), Aimee Guile (WRRB) and Pat Kane. We would also like to thank the staff of Hotıì Ts’eeda, Tłı̨chǫ Investment Corporation, Air Tindi, Weaver and Devore, Overlander Sports, Corothers Home Hardware Building Centre, Bassett Petroleum and Nahanni Construction-Lupin Mine for their valuable assistance to keep the camps in operation over the 2 months.  

Special mention to Arc’teryx who sponsored the teams with jackets and hats.   

The 2020 results report will be available in Spring 2021.

About the Project:

Ekwǫ̀ Nàxoèhdee K’è: Boots on the Ground is a caribou monitoring program based on the traditional knowledge of the Indigenous elders and harvesters. Faced with challenges from the decline of the Bathurst caribou herd and a self-imposed ban on caribou hunting in 2015, the Tłı̨chǫ Government initiated Boots on the Ground (the program) to collect critical field knowledge of the Bathurst caribou herd and its habitat. It is a multi-year traditional knowledge monitoring program for the Bathurst caribou and monitor the conditions of Bathurst herd’s summer range by focusing on indicators: (1) caribou habitat and environment, (2) caribou, (3) predators, and (4) industrial disturbance. 

Ekwǫ̀ Nàxoèhdee K’è comes from the Tłı̨chǫ language and refers to the movement of the caribou herd throughout the year, from the calving grounds to the forest and back again. It encompasses the whole life cycle of the caribou.

This program’s approach to caribou monitoring is based on the principle that local people who live on the land and rely on caribou for their daily subsistence are the people in the best position to know the current conditions of caribou and of the land. The program is based on the traditional knowledge (TK) of harvesters, and while utilizing interdisciplinary research techniques, it relies on the traditional ways of traveling, interacting with, and assessing the conditions of the land. The program's methodology, “Do as hunters do”, is based on the lifeways of hunters. From the elder's holistic concept “we watch everything”, the researchers identify and wait at specific na'oke (water crossings) and follow caribou herds by boat and on foot to identify traditional knowledge indicators of a healthy environment by assessing caribou and habitat conditions, impacts from predators, climate change and industrial activities. 


2019 Field Team:

  • Tyanna Steinwand, John Koadloak, Mercie Koadloak, Russell Drybones, Leon Ekendia, Robert Nitsiza, Roy Judas, Mike Simpson, John B. Zoe, Joe Lazare Zoe, Eva Mantla, Peter Huskey, Jimmy P Mantla, JJ Simpson, Nora Ekendia, Archie Zoe, Camilia Zoe Chocolate, Albina Nitsiza, Jasmine Blackduck and William Apples. Researchers were Petter Jacobsen, Camilia Zoe Chocolate and John Nishi.

2018 Field Team:

  • Joe Lazare Zoe, Russell Drybones, Jimmy Mantla, Petter Jacobsen, Roy Judas, Leon Ekendia, Tyanna Steinwand, Mercie Koadloak, John Franklin Koadloak.

2017 Field Team: 

  • Joe Lazare Zoe, Russell Drybones, Narcisse Rabesca, Petter Jacobsen, Roy Judas, Leon Ekendia, Tyanna Steinwand, Mercie Koadloak, John Franklin Koadloak.

2016 Field Team: 

  • Michel Louis Rabesca, Moise Rabesca, Sean Richardson, Archie Black, Petter Jacobsen, Domenico Santomauro, Leon Ekendia, Roy Judas, and Jorgen Bolt (Kugluktuk HTO).

Full Project Team:

  • Program Advisors: Joseph Judas, Joe Rabesca, Michel Louis Rabesca, Tammy Steinwand- Deschambeault, and John B. Zoe.
  • Research Team: Tyanna Steinwand, Domenico Santomauro, John Nishi and Petter Jacobsen.
  • GIS technician: Terrell Knapton-Pain and Michael Birlea
  • Communications advisors: Rachel MacNeill and Dawn Ostrem
  • Principal Investigator: Petter Jacobsen