Located at the eastern end of Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories is the proposed Thaidene Nëné national park reserve — part of a larger group of proposed protected areas around the East Arm and Artillery Lake regions. Thaidene Nëné means ‘Land of the Ancestors’ in the Dënesųłiné—or Chipewyan—language. The Łutsël K’e Dene First Nation (ŁKDFN) consider Thaidene Nëné to be the ‘heart of the homeland’ and a sacred place as the it is a traditional and present-day hunting, fishing, gathering and spiritual area.
Thaidene Nëné was first identified as a potential national park in the late 1960’s. By 1970, a land withdrawal of approximately 7,340 km2 was applied to the area with no expiry date. At that time, Łutsël K’e Dene First Nation did not support the idea of a national park in their traditional territory so the proposal was put on hold.
In 2000, Chief Felix Lockhart of (ŁKDFN) approached the Canadian government to renew discussions about establishing Thaidene Nëné as a national park to protect a portion of their traditional territory from development. In 2007, a further 26,350 km2 of land was withdrawn bringing the total study area to 33,690 km2. Then, in 2015, the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) initiated work on developing a matrix of protected area designations and northern tools for the 33,600 km2 Thaidene Nëné land withdrawal area. Through a series of meetings with Parks Canada, GNWT, Łutsël K’e Dene First Nation, Northwest Territory Métis Nation and other Indigenous groups, it was agreed that a proposal for a national park reserve of 14,000 km2 would be part of that matrix. Thaidene Nëné national park reserve, with its dramatic transition from the boreal forest of the Taiga Shield to above tree-line in the southern Arctic tundra, is an incredibly place, full of life, community and artistry.