NWT Lakes Aerial of ponds and lakes formed by Canadian Shield rock in the region of Thaidene Nëné in Canada’s Northwest Territories. © Pat Kane


Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation Wins Prestigious Equator Prize for its Work on Thaidene Nëné

Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation in the Northwest Territories has been named one of 10 winners of the 2020 Equator Prize. Awarded by the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Equator Initiative, the prestigious prize celebrates Indigenous peoples and local communities pioneering nature-based solutions to climate change and for sustainable development.

Łutsël K’é was recognized for its decades-long work to establish Thaidene Nëné—an Indigenous Protected Area that spans 6.5 million acres (26,376 km2) at the transition between boreal forest and tundra. It will permanently protect the forest, tundra and freshwater systems of Tu Nedhé  (Great Slave Lake).

Celebrating Thaidene Nëné On August 21, 2019, the Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation signed Establishment Agreements with Parks Canada and the Government of the Northwest Territories that mark a historic milestone for Thaidene Nëné.

The Equator Prize is awarded roughly every two years to recognize and advance local sustainable development solutions for people, nature, and resilient communities. This year, Łutsël K’é was selected from among nearly 600 nominations in more than 120 countries. The award winners represent global leaders who are pioneering Indigenous-led strategies for sustainably protecting, restoring, and managing ecosystems to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, help communities adapt to climate change, and create a green new economy.

Chief Darryl Marlowe said: “The protection and stewardship of Thaidene Nëné is the sacred responsibility of the Łutsël K’e Dene First Nation, as passed down to us through the generations from our elders. Achieving the protection of Thaidene Nëné for the Łutsël K’e Denesǫłine it is a decades-long dream, and a critical step towards ensuring our way of life can be maintained and shared with all Canadians.”


“The leadership and determination of the Łutsël K’e Dene First Nation to protect their way of life and their sacred homelands is precedent setting in Canada, and very deserving of global recognition,” said Hadley Archer, executive director for Nature United. “Thaidene Nëné reflects the commitment and cooperation of three levels of government to reimagine conservation for people and nature, providing the foundation of true Indigenous co-governance and protecting a critically important area for biodiversity and carbon storage. We are incredibly proud to have played a role in supporting the Łutsël K’e Dene First Nation  realize their decades-long dream.”

Nature United, together with our global affiliate, has been a long-time partner in advancing the Łutsël K’é vision for their traditional territories. Our decade-long partnership has included providing technical, financial and strategic support when needed by our partner, from mapping of ecological and cultural values for Elder and leadership decision-making on protected-area boundaries to supporting rigorous protected area legislation in NWT. Our organization has supported Ni Hat’Ni Dene Guardian Program since 2011, in particular youth involvement, as well as local economic development led by the Nation.

Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation will be recognized with the Equator Prize winners at a virtual ceremony in September 2020. To learn more about Thaidene Nëné and the precedent-setting model of Indigenous co-governance, visit landoftheancestors.ca.

Nature United was founded as a Canadian charity in 2014, building on decades of conservation in Canada. Headquartered in Toronto, our organization has field staff located across the country. Nature United supports Indigenous leadership, sustainable economic development and science and large-scale conservation, primarily in British Columbia, the Northwest Territories and Manitoba. Our organization is also working to accelerate Natural Climate Solutions at national and regional scales. To learn more, visit natureunited.ca or follow @natureunited_ca.

We are the Canadian affiliate of The Nature Conservancy, a global conservation organization with more than a million members and a diverse team that includes more than 400 scientists. Our global organization works in 79 countries — either directly or through partnerships — to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press.