The three day Bathurst Caribou Harvesters Gathering in Behchokǫ̀ and Yellowknife on January 29-31, 2013 was planned as an opportunity for Aboriginal people who depend on the Bathurst caribou to meet and share their wisdom and experiences in addressing management issues.
Grassroots Aboriginal elders, harvesters and youth delegated by Aboriginal governments and co-management boards of the NWT, Nunavut and Saskatchewan were invited to share knowledge across cultures and landscapes and make recommendations to decision-makers. Délı̨nęgot'ı̨nę delegates attended from the Sahtú Regıon, since Bathurst caribou travel through their traditional territory.
The Gathering, co-hosted by the Tłı̨chǫ Government and Wek’èezhìi Renewable Resources Board and attended by approximately 120 people, was structured to reflect a traditional format for dialogue and knowledge sharing that lends itself to a sense of equality among the participants. Identification of key issues served as the basis for focused development of solutions and recommendations.
The Gathering reflected advances in people’s confidence to assert their perspectives and develop concrete recommendations for moving forward. A lot had been learned through the six years of debate since the 2007 Caribou Summit held in Inuvik about approaches in management. All parties had come to recognize the value of working together. The value of the grassroots approach was reaffirmed, and participants repeatedly mentioned their interest in sharing knowledge at similar forums in the future.
Commitments were made by participants to bring the results of the Gathering back to communities and sponsoring organizations with the view to acquiring support for the recommendations. Timely follow-up on an inter-regional process will support those who are dependent on caribou to renew their traditional role in taking care of the caribou.
A Bathurst Caribou Working Group involving representatives of governments, wildlife co-management boards and Aboriginal groups who have management authority or traditional harvesting rights to the Bathurst caribou herd was established following the Bathurst Gathering. The Working Group met in October 2013 and February 2014 to discuss what management processes for the Bathurst herd should look like.
All the organizations represented at the February 2014 workshop supported forming a management body for the Bathurst caribou herd. They also supported the mandate that was developed at the October 2013 workshop. A draft Terms of Reference has been developed for the new management body. Another meeting of the Working Group needs to be held to confirm support for the new management body and Terms of Reference.