Ɂehdzo Got’ı̨nę Gots’ę́ Nákedı
Sahtú Renewable Resources Board


  • Summary

    This report summarises the data from the analysis of liver and kidney tissues from caribou collected south and west of Deline, NT in March, 2002. The samples were analysed by ICP/MS for a full suite of twenty-two metals by Taiga Laboratory in Yellowknife. The same tissues were analysed for naturally occurring radionuclides and cesium-137 by Whiteshell Laboratories in Pinawa, MB.
    Most metals were detected in the two tissues in all the caribou harvested, however beryllium, lithium and uranium were not detected in any sample. Other metals, like aluminum, thallium, and silver were only detectable in a few samples of either liver or kidney. Metals of concern, like cadmium and mercury, are relatively low in these animals and are not expected to be a danger to the animals or people who hunt them.
    Several natural radionuclides were measured in the tissues, but all levels remain within the normal range found in caribou in the North. Potassium-40, a natural nuclide found in all living tissues, remained at slightly less than 100 Bq/kg, consistent with all other caribou. Uranium-235, radium-226 and thorium-232 are all natural nuclides that form from the decay of uranium-238, but are found at very low concentrations in these animals. Lead-210 and polonium-210, two natural nuclides, are present at levels within the ranges normally found for caribou in the NWT. Although meat wasn’t tested in this study, it is expected from other studies that these isotopes would be <10 Bq/kg in meat. These data indicate that there is no evidence of contamination of metals or radionuclides, and that the caribou meat remains a healthy, nutritious food source.


      pdf Summary of Bluenose-East Caribou Contaminants Report 2002 (1.44 MB)



  • The main goal of the caribou research project is to develop a comprehensive understanding of the identities and relationships among caribou populations and Dene people in the Sahtú region in order to inform and prioritize management efforts. The project will bring together traditional knowledge and non-invasive population genetics to organize and understand the biological diversity of caribou and to develop an approach to caribou research that balances and accommodates aboriginal and scientific ways of knowing.


    Caribou occupy a central place in the livelihoods and identities of Aboriginal people. Some caribou groups are more closely related to each other than others. Understanding the differences between caribou herds and populations is a question of interest to managers, ecologists, and First Nation hunters. For example, because caribou populations are often identified for management purposes it is important to understand if caribou from one area ever travel to different places and mate with other groups of caribou. In the Sahtú Region, caribou are given different names if they live in the mountains, or the boreal forests, or in the tundra. We are interested in understanding how groups of caribou are related to other groups of caribou in the Sahtú Region.

    In the fall of 2012, the Sahtú Dene and Métis of the Northwest Territories passed a resolution detailing their resolve to conduct respectful caribou research and management. The caribou genetics study has developed collaborations with the Ɂehdzo Got’ı̨nę Gots’ę́ Nákedı and the Ɂehdzo Got’ı̨nę of Fort Good Hope, Norman Wells, Tulı́t’a, Délı̨nę, and Colville Lake to research and monitor caribou populations. It is critically important to develop a collaborative approach to wildlife management that uses multiple sources of data and knowledge systems to help define the boundaries of different groups of caribou. We hope to increase our understanding of caribou in the Sahtú Region with information from hunters and trappers as well as population genetics.

    Population genetics allows scientists to understand how different groups of caribou are related to each other in much the same way humans are related to their extended families. A strong partnership with the communities of the Sahtú Region is essential to the project because the research is dependent on the voluntary collection of caribou fecal pellet (scat or poop) samples by local community members. We are able to take DNA from the outside mucus layer on caribou scat (poop) that is found frozen on the snow. Each caribou has its own individual DNA that is found in the mucus. Once the scat is brought to the lab, technicians take the mucus off a piece of scat from each individual caribou. By running the mucus through machines, we are able to identify each individual caribou and to see how that caribou is related to other caribou. This would be the same thing we could do with a piece of hair from a person to see if a sibling or parent was related to that person.

    Preliminary results from the samples collected during the winter of 2013 can be found on the project website here: http://jeanpolfus.com/

    Team Members


    Sahtu Renewable Resources Board, Environment and Natural Resources - Northwest Territories, Cumulative Impact Monitoring Program - Northwest Territories, University of Manitoba, Environmental Studies Research Fund, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Polar Continental Shelf Program of Natural Resources Canada 


    2014-2015 Budget



  • Shúhta Goɂepę́ are of critical cultural and subsistence importance to the Dene and Métis peoples of Tulı́t’a and Norman Wells in the Northwest Territories, and to the Tu Łidlini (Ross River) Dena in the Yukon Territory. Ice Patch studies have revealed archaeological artifacts and biological specimens that demonstrate the deep relationship between Shúhta Goɂepę́ (Mountain Caribou) and Shúhtaot’ı̨nę (Mountain Dene), dating back nearly 5,000 years. Though not scheduled for assessment by the NWT Species at Risk Committee until 2020, Northern Mountain Caribou were recently given an upgraded NWT General Status Rank of ‘Sensitive’. The federal Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada designated Northern Mountain Caribou as a species of Special Concern in 2014, reflecting the growing risks presented by climate change, habitat fragmentation, and other pressures.

    Mountain Caribou Photo 2

    Photo: NormBarichello

    Though scientific knowledge of the Shúhta Goɂepę́ population structure is limited, Shúhtaot’ı̨nę knowledge indicates that specific subpopulations in their traditional territory are gravely at risk, and urgent action is required. This community-driven stewardship planning initiative presents an opportunity to break new ground in piloting an innovative collaborative approach to conservation that accounts for the intersection of culture and biology (adopting a rigorous “biocultural” approach), bringing together northern Indigenous people from two territories and addressing pressing challenges in mine development as well as existing conflicts about harvest access among Indigenous communities.

    The impacts of visitors in the K’á Tǝ́ (Dechenla / Dechı̨lǫ or Mac Pass) area, the Mackenzie Valley Review Board Environmental Assessment of the Howard's Pass Access Road Upgrade Project, and the proposed amendment to the Sahtú Land Use Plan following the creation of the Nááts’ı̨̨hch’oh National Park Reserve present growing risks for a number of Shúhta Goɂepę́ subpopulations. The development of a stewardship plan for this species of central importance to Sahtú and Ross River peoples is therefore incredibly timely, and serves as a focal point that will inform these and other broader land and resource management issues, including the management of cumulative effects on Shúhta Goɂepę́ and their associated habitat.

    Sahtú and Tu Łidlini delegates met in Tu Łidlini (Ross River, YT) in 2014 and in Tulı́t’a (NT) in 2016 to discuss concerns about the Shúhta Goɂepę́ population in the K’á Tǝ́ Traditional Area, as well as possible solutions to the problems being faced. A joint Shúhta Goɂepę́ stewardship planning process was committed to, and in summer 2017 work to draft a plan began with a week-long workshop at Dechenla Lodge, in the heart of the area under discussion.

    Mountain Caribou Group Photo

    Photo credit: Stuart Cowell

    The draft Nío Nę P’ęnę́ Begháré Shúhta Goɂepę́ Narehɂá – Trails of the Mountain Caribou Management Plan was prepared by a Working Group made up of delegates of the Ɂehdzo Got’ı̨nę Gots’ę́ Nákedı, Tulı́t’a Dene Band, Tulı́t'a and Norman Wells Ɂehdzo Got'ı̨nę (Renewable Resources Councils) and Tu Łidlini (Ross River) Dena Council, as well as other collaborators and partners. It outlines our vision, the values that we hope to protect and sustain, the scope of the plan, threats we face, and ways of monitoring our progress. There are six main program areas, including:

    1. Development of a land-based Indigenous Guardian and healing program 
    2. Reducing disturbance of Shúhta Goɂepę́
    3. Protecting land through protected areas
    4. Education and communication of Dene / Métis laws
    5. Indigenous resource laws and agreements
    6. Keep moving forward (evaluation and learning)

    The draft plan is currently being revised following extensive community review and comment. It will then be reviewed by Governments of NWT and Yukon, and once all Parties approve the plan, it will be submitted for approval and forwarded to the Minister.

    Mountain Caribou Photo

    Photo credit: JoshBarichello

    Team members, partners and collaborators

    Indigenous partnersIndigenous partners

    • Ɂehdzo Got’ı̨nę Gots’ę́ Nákedı (Sahtú Renewable Resources Board)
    • Norman Wells Ɂehdzo Got'ı̨nę (Renewable Resources Council)
    • Tulı́t’a Dene Band
    • Tulı́t’a Ɂehdzo Got'ı̨nę (Renewable Resources Council)
    • Tu Łidlini Dena Council

    Supporting Partners

    • Ɂehdzo Got’ı̨nę Gots’ę́ Nákedı (Sahtú Renewable Resources Board)
    • Norman Wells Ɂehdzo Got'ı̨nę (Renewable Resources Council)
    • Tulı́t’a Dene Band
    • Tulı́t’a Ɂehdzo Got'ı̨nę (Renewable Resources Council)
    • Tu Łidlini Dena Council

    Supporting Partners

    • Ɂehdzo Got’ı̨nę Gots’ę́ Nákedı
    • Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society
    • Conservation Coaches Network
    • Environment and Climate Change Canada
    • Náats’ı̨hch’oh National Park Reserve
    • NWT Environment and Natural Resources
    • Parks Canada Agency
    • TNC Canada
    • Yukon Environment

    Current Indigenous Working Group

    • Derrick Redies
    • Dorothy Dick
    • Frederick Andrew
    • Gordon Peter
    • Gordon Yakeleya
    • Leon Andrew
    • Norm Sterriah
    • Rhea McDonald
    • Robbie Dick
    • Rocky Norwegian

    Resource people


    Ɂehdzo Got’ı̨nę Gots’ę́ Nákedı; Indian and Northern Affairs Canada; NWT Environment and Natural Resources; Tides Canada - Full Circle Foundation; NWT Species at Risk Stewardship Program; NWT Education, Culture and Employment; National Indian Brotherhood Continuing Our Journey Trust Fund; Park Canada Agency



    cutting meat

     Photo credit: JoshBarichello