Managed by indigenous tradition
On June 5, 2021, Tuktut Nogait National Park (TNNP) celebrated the 25th anniversary of the signing of the park’s establishment agreement. Generations of use and years of discussion culminated in preserving this landscape, now totaling over 18,000 km2, for future generations.
Tucked in the northeastern reach of the Northwest Territories, Tuktut Nogait National Park remains an unspoiled landscape. This remote park, located 170 km north of the Arctic Circle, provides habitat for elusive predators such as Arctic wolves, grizzlies and wolverines, and raptors such as gyrfalcons and peregrine falcons nest in large numbers among the spires and canyons within the mythical Hornaday and Brock River Canyons.
The makings of a park
Originally proposed by the community of Paulatuk in 1988, and then through the Wildlife Management Advisory Council (NWT) in 1990, Tuktut Nogait National Park’s establishment agreement was signed on June 5, 1996, between the Government of Canada, the Government of the Northwest Territories, the Inuvialuit Game Council, the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, the Paulatuk Community Corporation and the Paulatuk Hunters and Trappers Committee. Following the completion of the Impact and Benefit Plan for the Expansion of Tuktut National Park of Canada into the Sahtú Settlement Region (2005), the park was expanded southwards and an appointee of the Déline Land Corporation — now the Déline Gotine Government — was included on the Board.
Uniquely managed by consensus
What truly sets Tuktut Nogait apart from other parks and protected places isn’t just the landscape or the wildlife, but how it is managed. It is managed cooperatively, by consensus, by the Tuktut Nogait National Park Management Board acting together with Parks Canada’s superintendent and staff. As formally laid out by the park’s establishment agreement, the board consists of six members appointed by the Indigenous authorities and the federal minister responsible for national parks, on the advice of the Territorial Government. Together, they chart a course on all aspects of Park planning, operations and management.
“Tuktut Nogait represents an alliance between the Inuvialuit and the Governments of Canada and the Northwest Territories, and more recently the Déline Gotine Government. They have agreed to make all reasonable efforts to manage Tuktut Nogait National Park by the age-old Indigenous tradition of consensus decision-making. They have imported consensus into the heart of this national park, for the primary benefit of the caribou, the protection of the calving grounds, and the communities that depend on the caribou. What is consensus? It is a method of making decisions based ultimately on mutual respect; negotiated, shared purposes; creating a space for reflection rather than reaction; and weaving together complementary perspectives into one consistent path of action. No narrow motions and no votes …, but rather encouraging all participants to speak, listening to and hearing their different cultures and perspectives, and taking the time to reconcile those different perspectives into one whole,” explains Tom Nesbitt, chair of the Tuktut Nogait National Park Management Board. “We hear, rightly, so much today about the need for reconciliation, but how often do we actually see it? Perhaps Tuktut Nogait National Park may represent a small, modest contribution to this fundamental national purpose.”
Celebrating successes and working together
Tuktut Nogait’s site manager, Stephanie Yuill, along with staff Tracey Wolki and Brianna Wolki, hosted community events leading up to June 5. These events included a community scavenger hunt and radio bingo, sealing a time capsule, and serving a traditional feast for the original signatories of the agreement.
“What a celebration! Stories told, photos taken, laughter shared, and memories made! Quyanainni to the community of Paulatuk for their hard work then, now, and in the future!” says Stephanie.
Taking the road less travelled
In 2019, TNNP had only 14 visitors for the entire year — Banff National Park sees more in a minute! Over the last decade, the park averaged seven visitors per year, not including Inuvialuit using the land. It’s remote! The remoteness and lack of crowds are what make Tuktut Nogait a truly unique and rewarding experience. Anyone considering visiting is strongly recommended to connect with Parks Canada visitor centre staff in Paulatuk or Inuvik for trip planning information.
Once in the park, there are endless opportunities for backpacking and rafting. Explore the Hornaday River, or hike and backpack across the park, as there are no designated trails. A particularly beautiful time to visit is during July, when the midnight sun is shining and the wildflowers are blooming.
For more information on Tuktut Nogait National Park, visit: pc.gc.ca/tuktutnogait.