Ekwǫ̀ Nàxoède K’è: Boots on the Ground

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

Ekwǫ̀ Nàxoède 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 Nàxoède 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. 

The project involves summer camps at Kokètì (Contwoyto lake). Reports are below.

Project Team:

  • Petter Jacobsen (Principal Investigator)
  • Joe Zoe 
  • Leon Ekendia
  • Leon Sanspariel
  • Russel Drybones
  • Tyanna Steinwand
  • Mercie Koadlak
  • John Koadlak