Ekwǫ̀ Nàxoèhdee K’è: Boots on the Ground

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

2023 Ekwǫ̀ Nàxoèhdee K’è update: Summer 2023 was a hard summer for the ENK program due to the wildfire evacuations of Behchokǫ̀ and Yellowknife. However, three teams, with a total of 19 Tłı̨chǫ people, were able to travel to the barrenlands. Kokètì Team 1 was July 21 - Aug 9, 2023. Kokètì Team 2 was Aug 9 - 27, 2023. There was one team at Deèzàatì from Sept 15 – Oct 4, 2023. We tried to fly out to Ekati but due to wildfire smoke, it was not possible to land. Prior to the teams going out, a 3-day research training was conducted in Behchokǫ̀, along with wilderness first aid, predator safety and boat safety training.  

We would like to specially recognize our staff member Jocelyn Zoe for her hard work organizing, postponing and re-organizing the teams due to extenuating circumstances outside our control. The monitors were glad to be able to get out to the barrenlands this summer to observe the caribou and their habitat. As always, a big Masì Cho to our local suppliers such as Bassett Petro, Weaver & Devore, Air Tindi and Overlander Sports.  

2023 Tłı̨chǫ team members: Andrew Laing, Archie Wetrade, Robert Nitsiza, Dene Daniels, Dillon Smith, Ernie Wedawin, Ete Lafferty-Zoe, Eva Mantla, Hardy Mantla, Janelle Nitsiza, Janet Wedawin, Jazy Wetrade, Jimmy B Mantla, Jimmy P Mantla, Joe (Lazare) Zoe, Joseph Moosenose, Louisa Mackenzie, Rita Wetrade, Roy Judas. Accompanying the teams were Aimee Guile, John Nishi, Mercie Koadloak and John Koadloak. 

Tłı̨chǫ Government staff/consultants involved in the program: Tyanna Steinwand, Petter Jacobsen, Tammy Steinwand-Deschambeault, Janelle Nitsiza, Lydiah Rabesca, Jocelyn Zoe, Stephanie Behrens, Terrell Knapton-Pain, Shahrooz Pirkoohi. 

2022 Ekwǫ̀ Nàxoèhdee K’è update: In 2022 TG DCLP/TRTI ran 3 camps on the barrenlands, which allowed for 39 Tłı̨chǫ people [from each Tłı̨chǫ community] to be on the land monitoring the caribou. In addition to Kǫ̀k'etı̀ and Deèzàatì, this year a new location was added to our network of caribou monitoring camps – the new camp is located on Ekatı̀ (Lac du Sauvage/Lac de Gras).

We had many youth who were able to take part in this year’s ENK program. In addition, CJBS (Chief Jimmy Bruneau School) students from Behchokǫ̀ were able to come to Deèzàatì camp, which was a joyful experience for all involved. Running 3 camps is a significant achievement and could not have been accomplished without the tireless efforts of our coordinating staff which includes Jocelyn Zoe, Janelle Nitsiza, Roy Judas, Stephanie Behrens, Shahrooz Pirkoohi, Terrell Knapton-Pain, Tyanna Steinwand, Tammy-Steinwand Deschambeault, and Petter Jacobsen. A job well done to all involved. Many thanks to GNWT ENR CIMP and Arctic Diamonds for their financial contributions.

2022 camp participants: Ahri Ekendia, Avery Huskey, Bobby Migwi, Bobby Nitsiza, Camilla Eyakfwo, Charlie Eyakfwo, Denise Lazare Zoe, Donovan Lafferty, Ernie Wedawin, Ete Lafferty-Zoe, Eva Mantla, Germaine Eyakfwo, Gilbert Migwi, Gina Migwi, Hardy Mantla, Irene Lafferty, Janelle Nitsiza, Janet Rabesca, Janet Wedawin, Jaden Smith, Joe Mackenzie, Joe Lazare Zoe, John Boline, Joseph Moosenose, Julian Behrens, Louis Zoe, Louisa Mackenzie, Michel Louis Rabesca, Pat Lafferty, Quinn Rabesca, Roy Judas, Russell Drybones, Sean Richardson, Stephanie Behrens, Steven Lafferty, Terrence Whane, Therese Zoe, Tony Williah, Tyanna Steinwand; also Petter Jacobsen, John Nishi and Aimee Guile.

Web story on CJBS students at Deèzàatì: https://cklbradio.com/2022/10/25/i-have-never-seen-so-much-caribou-in-my...

2021 Ekwǫ̀ Nàxoèhdee K’è update: 4 monitoring teams were able to go out to Kǫ̀k'etı̀ this past summer. Team A was out from July 3-19, Team B was July 19-Aug 6, Team C was Aug 6-24, Team D was Aug 24-Sept 10. A total of 26 Tłı̨chǫ people from every Tłı̨chǫ community were at camp. The teams totalled to 66 field days, 3572 km travelled and 266 monitoring hours. The teams spotted 3244 caribou.

Training courses were offered to participants to help prepare for the monitoring. These courses were boat safety, predator defense/firearms safety, wilderness first aid, and research/photography training. Plans were cut short due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the NWT, but we were still able to send 4 teams to Kǫ̀k'etı̀.

Camp participants: Aimee Guile (WRRB), Archie Zoe, Bobby Nitsiza, Camilia Zoe-Chocolate, Carter Wetrade, Charlie Eyakfwo, Cody Steven Mantla, Eva Mantla, Janelle Nitsiza, Janet Rabesca, Jimmy P Mantla, JJ Simpson, Joe Lazare Zoe, John Paul Rabesca, Johnny Boline, Josephine Rabesca, Julian Behrens, Leon Ekendia, Lisa-Marie Zoe, Louisa Mackenzie, Michel Louis Rabesca, Richard Romie, Roy Judas, Russell Drybones, Stephanie Behrens, Terrence Whane, Tyanna Steinwand.

Regrettably, on November 9 2021, the ENK team suffered the significant loss of our camp K'àowo, Elder and bear monitor, Leon Ekendia. Leon’s leadership, work ethic, knowledge and presence were a tremendous asset to the program and he will be greatly missed at both Kǫ̀k'etı̀ and Deèzàatì camps. Leon, we will be thinking of you at camp and remember all the great teachings you left us with.

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