Preparing for the camp and engaging community members were the main goals of January 2016.  With the opening of the winter road, the Northern ICE team travelled to bring camp supplies (snare wires, bush food, tarps, tents, tepees, propane stoves, gas lamps, and much more) and equipment to Tulita from Yellowknife.  Our team members held an additional two weeks of wellness workshops at the Cultural Centre in January.  The workshops were an empowering time to learn about healing and discuss challenges people are facing.  Several participants shared feeling uncertain of how to begin their healing journey, however knowing they want to start living in balance. During the workshops we discussed residential school, its intergenerational impacts, and how to heal from past experiences.  Elders shared concern for their children and grandchildren and spoke to the difficulties families are facing in the communities.  In the evenings, the team saw community members one on one for counseling and ceremony.

During the month, we met with the Magistrate Judge at court in Tulita to recommend that young men be referred to TLBHCC.  At the camp, male youth will have the opportunity to spend time out on the land and are being referred to the camp by their probation officer. We also met with the Justice Council to get their support for the on the land-base program and restorative justice initiatives.   The Justice Council is working on developing new strategies for restorative justice in Tulita. Northern ICE also met with six members of the Justice Council to discuss community problems, how the restorative justice program in the past was successful, and lack of funding for these programs.

Elders requested a northern artist to lead art workshops with youth and school students, so we invited a Dene Artist to travel to Tulita and take part.  He had the opportunity to connect with youth through artistic expression. The artist worked with youth artists to create a large program mural.  This mural will be housed in the future Tulita Elders Lodge, our aftercare building for the program that is envisioned to begin construction in 2017. Alongside community artists, the group painted a beautiful large mural depicting bear rock, ancestors, families, and the land.

On February 10th, we were able to travel out on the land to the Marten River camp and spent three weeks preparing it for programming. A wonderful Sahtu Elder travelled in from Norman Wells to help us to make a trail to the camp, and a group slept overnight and helped set up tents with wood stoves for our night.  With the assistance of two youth volunteers and our camp manager, we brought most of our gear and supplies to the camp.  The camp is situated at the junction of Marten River and Great Bear River and is a forty-minute skidoo ride away from the winter road.  This camp was built by the community around a decade ago and used periodically over the years for different projects. However, there have been no substantial improvement or maintenance at the camp since it was last used.  When we arrived, there was a free-standing kitchen area, two semi-functional outhouses, and one old tent frame. We were grateful to have the kitchen frame to work with while we were setting up the camp.  Over the three weeks, we made the made some improvements to the kitchen; we added a door, replaced a stove, installed shelves, insulated the exterior, and brought in a larger table. Spending time out on the land gave us the opportunity to clean up the area around the camp, set up four Fort McPherson tents, and get wood and ice for our day-to-day needs.  Each day at the camp, we had a group breakfast, planned the day, and spent time on activities non-stop into the night! We gathered to laugh and share stories, and each of us stocked the stove with wood.

We also began envisioning sustainable camp infrastructure needs and vision for the long-term plan for the camp. For example, we would like to build a self-sufficient large camp lodge for programming and workshops with a kitchen, dining area, sustainable “off the grid” compost toilets for men and women, and showers. We would like to build staff housing for Elders and camp staff, along with 2 duplex housing: one for men and women.  Another plan is to build a crafts shop for women’s and men’s activities throughout the day, such as canoe-making, and sewing with moose hide.  

The Tulita Land-Based Healing Cultural Camp program is built on Dene traditional values and cultural knowledge, led by leadership of Sahtu Dene Elders who are the knowledge holders.  The cycle of culture and environment are the heart of the central Dene Laws, and serve as our program’s model. 

Northern ICE is working with community leadership for guidance and direction. We are planning a community meeting with the leadership from the Hamlet of Tulita, Ft. Norman Metis Land/Financial Corporation, Tulita District Land Corporation, and Tuilta Dene Band for future plans for the community and on the land initiative for the Tulita Land-Based Healing Cultural Camp and community aftercare to help the community to have opportunities for wellness through both programs.

We need partners to help and begin the intake for young and older men for September and October for the first program:

  • One of our short-term goals is to promote health, healing, wellness among Tulita community members by running the programs.
  • Our long term objective is to build aftercare infrastructure and capacity in Tulita so that Aboriginal wellness services can be delivered both rooted on the land and in the community.  We are working with the Hamlet of Tulita to develop an environmentally friendly aftercare building to house all the healing, treatment, and counseling programs and projects

We would like to give a big Mahsi Cho to the Hamlet of Tulita community members for supporting our healing workshops at cultural centre and supporting the program via donations of time, supplies and space.

We are beginning to grow a team to include traditional ecological knowledge holders, Elders, craftsmen and handicraft women, healers, and counselors to begin the process of wellness.