Dene Nation – Land of the People

Saturday, March 20, marked the first day of spring. Spring Equinox means that both day and night have equal amounts of time to share their gifts on Dene land. The sun and moon don’t compete. They are equal.

Much like the relationship between the sun and the moon, we, the Dene, don’t compete with each other, nor do we compete with our land relatives who have lived here with us since time immemorial.  And even when we’re in the middle of reforming the Dene Nation Constitution and by-laws, we always take into account our existing relationship with the land and all of our relations that inhabit it.

When I think of the future of the Dene People, I remember the fundamental principles and values that we made with our land relatives years ago. The land we inhabit today was gifted to us by Creator, and we were put here to work in cooperation with the animals, the water, the air and the environment.  Our relationship to the land is bound by fundamental principles and values, which include sharing, respect, caring, equality, self-respect and pride.

As Dene people, we relate to the land in a different way – we understand ourselves to be as one with the land, air, environment and our relationships with the animals to that of family. We, the Dene, were given the sacred responsibility to ensure the survival of our lands and we will act on its behalf as required. 

The land is sacred to us, as it holds the blood of our ancestors. Those fortunate enough to walk amongst our ancestors, with us, shall walk with reverence and abide by our strict Dene Laws, as we do.

As a Nation, we intend to reside upon our lands, living life as we always have, as long as the sun shines, the rivers flow and the grass grows. We can only survive and thrive by working collaboratively together. It is how we have governed ourselves in the past and it is how we will forge our own future based upon the laws of the land, for the benefit of all residents of Denendeh.

Introducing the Constitution Reform Commission (CRC)


Many Heartbeats, One Dene Drum

Winter is a time for reflection and renewal. As we wait for the last snowflakes to fall and spring to return, I take this time to reflect on what the Dene Elders said to me – Ensure our Dene Nations remain united.  As Dene National Chief, this is my priority, while acknowledging the sovereignty of each of our Dene nations.  With the support of the Grand Chiefs and Chiefs in all five regions, together we provide an integrated Dene voice for our people.

In order to ensure the Dene Nation’s mandate is consistent with the Dene communities, we needed to reform the Constitution and By-Laws.  The Constitution is a broader statement that speaks to our objectives as Dene Nation’s; By-Laws are the processes to guide the day-to-day operations.  I mandated the Constitutional Reform Commission (CRC) to provide me with recommendations and proposed changes to the current Constitution and By-Laws.  To support the Chair, Georges Erasmus, the co-Chair, Herb Norwegian, I have appointed 5 representatives from each region:  Sam Gargon, Dehcho; Florence Catholique, Akaitcho; Betha Rabesca Zoe, Tłı̨chǫ;  Danny Gaudet, Sahtu; and, Neil Pascal, Gwichin.  

We have shared this land since time immemorial and together we share common characteristics:  Our lands were gifted to us, and it is our responsibility to ensure it is sustained for the future generations; our relationships, we do not separate ourselves from our land relatives: the animals, the waters, the air, Creator and the Ancestors; Our stories are sacred.  Our ancestors have used story to teach us the Dene Laws, our history, laws, values and appropriate cultural behaviour; and finally, our governing structures are distinctive.  We are a cooperative people; we value our partnerships and strive to ensure that all abide by strong cultural principles of respect and trust.  Our decision-making processes involve the whole community, with special attention to those affected by the outcome.  The way we relate, understand and interpret our Lands, Relationships, Stories and Decision-Making processes marks common characteristics of being Dene.  

We have successfully governed lands, the animals and ourselves since the beginning of time.  We’ve worked synergistically, always making sure that we include leaders, Elders and community members to make decisions. We the Dene of Denendeh look towards a future where we work together to determine a future for all.