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Parks Canada, Indigenous Groups Sign Agreement For Nahanni National Park Reserve

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Protected areas play a vital role in conserving natural and cultural heritage, fighting climate change and biodiversity loss, and providing Canadians with opportunities to learn more about iconic cultural and natural settings. 

The lands, waters, and ice that Parks Canada administers overlap with traditional territories, treaty lands, and ancestral homelands of Indigenous peoples. It recognizes Indigenous peoples’ essential roles in protecting and conserving these cherished areas.

Last week, Julie Dabrusin, parliamentary secretary to the minister of Environment and Climate Change, together with Chief Steve Vital, Nahʔą Dehé Dene Band, and Grand Chief Herb Norwegian, Dehcho First Nations, announced the signing of the Ndahecho Gondié Gháádé Agreement to support social and economic opportunities for Nahʔą Dehé Dene and Dehcho Dene concerning Nahanni National Park Reserve in the Northwest Territories. 

“Nahanni National Park Reserve is and always will be the traditional territory of the Nahʔą Dehé Dene Band. The Nahʔą Dehé people are proud Guardians of these lands and waters. Signing this agreement provides our community with the resources to honor this responsibility to our elders and ancestors and gives our youth opportunities to learn and prosper as they do it,” said Chief Steve Vital of the Nahʔą Dehé Dene Band.

The signing of this agreement builds on 20 years of successful cooperative management and enhances the relationship in a context of respect and reconciliation, according to a news release.

This agreement recognizes and supports the crucial participation of Nahʔą Dehé Dene Band and Dehcho First Nations in the management of Nahanni National Park Reserve. 

“The signing of this agreement is a prime example of how positive outcomes are achieved when nations come together to work toward a common goal. It emphasizes the unwavering involvement and dedication of Indigenous peoples in the management of Nahanni National Park Reserve, and strengthens the relationship between the Government of Canada, the Nahʔą Dehé Dene Band and Dehcho First Nations,” said Dabrusin.

Key elements include new and innovative models for cooperative management, funding for the new Nahʔą Dehé K’ehodi (Guardians on the Land) program within Nahanni National Park Reserve, employment opportunities, capacity development, and economic provisions, as well as support for Elders and youth to participate in “on the land” programs the park reserve.

As described in this agreement, shared governance arrangements provide ways for Parks Canada and Indigenous peoples to engage in collaborative decision-making for protected heritage places. 

They are an essential way for the Government of Canada to honor its commitments to renewed relationships with Indigenous peoples based on the recognition of rights, respect, cooperation, and partnership, rooted in the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

This agreement will help ensure Indigenous connections to the land are honored and Indigenous rights are respected. 

It will also advance the shared interest of Parks Canada, Nahʔą Dehé Dene Band, and Dehcho First Nations to protect the ecological and cultural integrity of the ecosystems found within Nahanni National Park Reserve.

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