Hotıì ts'eeda summer student Joni Tsatchia attended the 49th annual Dene National Assembly this summer from July 28th to August 1st. Here, she reflects on her experience attending this event:
"The Dene National Assembly was an amazing experience. I was able to listen to the leaders and delegates from many communities, and it was unique as there was no cell service so people were not distracted by their cell phones. I also enjoyed the many conversations in an outdoor setting. The traditional food served daily is a reminder that the Beaufort Delta are still very strong in their traditional way of life and protocols. I wanted to get to know the local people, so I volunteered at the cook house. I learned a lot about traditional cuisine and the best spots to look for berries. The ladies were welcoming and willing to share their stories.
I met the AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde and the Dene National Regional Chief for NT Norman Yakeleya. I enjoyed learning about the Dene National gatherings and the importance of being one nation. Many of the agenda items were gathered collectively by all the leaders to make changes territorially and federally. The agenda items also mentioned and pertaining to health were the community wellness funding, Indigenous service plan, home and community care program, Indian residential school programs, cultural and resolution support worker, health services integration fund, mental wellness teams, and the announcement of the two new positions for Indigenous people with NIHB (non-insured health benefits) and Jordan's Principle.
I did have good discussions with people about their concerns. They all seem to have concerns about the wellness funding like how it is being dispersed and why it has to go through GNWT first. Many of the Elders were concerned about water and low levels in different areas. One elder said “water is life and we all need it to survive, including the animals and mother earth. Mother earth is crying.” I loved her words because without water nothing can survive. I believe land-based gathering is the way to go as the youth can interact with the Elders, knowledge keepers, and leaders. The hosting community, Fort McPherson also can converse with delegates in a setting they’re accustomed to for example by the fire, the cookhouse, campsites while drinking tea and eating local traditional food when offered.
I enjoyed the attitudes of everyone and the warm atmosphere everywhere we went. I would like to say Masi to everyone for the opportunity to travel and experience the Beaufort Delta and everyone’s sincere hospitality. I hope someday to return and visit and reconnect with the amazing people I met on this journey."