What does it mean to bring the past, forward to the present, honouring lessons learned along the way towards integration and evolution, towards a future that represents each of us as nations, unique, individual, of value — dancing in our sacred ecstatic differences, utilizing economy, politic, and society as expressions of compassion, connection and freedom?

Is that even possible?

Is it utopic to think so? Or is it necessary? In the age of Anthropocene, I continue to believe that the systems that held my ancestors’ ancestors in balance, in-tune with nature, are the same that will revitalize our dying human systems; medicine, our ancestors are, for this — the era of the Anthropocene.

Chloe Dragon Smith and Robert Grandjambe run a small business as full-time land users in Wood Buffalo National Park; Beb(a)ski – for the land consulting and services.

“Economies that are tied directly to the land and to Northern Indigenous worldviews have the potential to (re)teach us different ways of relating to profit, growth, abundance, and prosperity in the NWT, if we let the land, people, and processes lead us,” says Dragon-Smith. “Many systems desperately need creative innovations like this right now. The North could be leaders in land-based economies and sustainable economic principles in Canada but also in the world. It seems to me that the GNWT continually tries to fit our ways of doing things into boxes that are built by people elsewhere and that means the territory is always catching up.

“If we believe in ourselves, knowing what makes our land and people so beautiful and unique, we could contribute to solutions while also developing core pride and identity, never mind having fun while doing it! People are meant to be touching, smelling, feeling — interacting with hide, animals and ultimately land. We are meant to participate with the world around us and appreciate it, for it is the only way we can make good decisions about what it needs.”

News North/Yellowknifer also spent time in Liidlii Kue in August, speaking with leadership, community members and the participants and coordinators of the Dene Nahjo Hide Tanning Camp, where there was a natural flow of conversation around the continuation and revitalization of Dene practices and ways of connecting having a major ripple effect across the territories — and the wider Indigenous movements towards sovereignty and self-determination that are taking place all over Turtle Island, and the world.

“Part of our ceremony, here, was feeding the fire. “Ko” — fire — is central to us,” shares thought leader and Dene Nahjo coordinator Deneze Nakehk’o. “It is where we cook, where we eat, where we gather, where we meet.

“So, we had a fire feeding ceremony and a part of that is to feed food and tobacco to the spirits of the land, the plants, the water, the rocks, the insects, the winged ones, the four leggeds, the clouds, the sky, everything has a spirit. So do we, and that is how our spirit interacts with other spirits,” says Nakehk’o. “We have to give thanks and be grateful to the spirits of the land for allowing us the opportunities to have these experiences, but we also put food and tobacco in the fire to give thanks to our ancestors, because our ancestors lived their lives in a way to enable us to be here today.

“My ancestors were thinking about me today, seven generations ago. So, when we feed the fire, we are feeding the spirits but also feeding our ancestors for living their lives in the way to enable us to be here today. With that in mind it is our responsibility to live our lives, and to make decisions, to ensure that seven generations from now there will still be somebody feeding the fire.”

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