Welcoming Dënë Cheecham-Uhrich to the CFA Steering Committee

We are thrilled to announce that Dënë Cheecham-Uhrich is joining the Freshwater Alliance's steering committee in 2022.

Keep reading below to learn more about Dënë and her community-driven project Beading A New World: Collective Climate Accountability and Adaptation Project (CCAAP)

Ëdlánët’ë [Hello, how are you]. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to formally introduce myself. My name is Dënë Cheecham-Uhrich, home to the Dënësułinë Treaty 8 Territory, Clearwater River Dënë Nation in La Loche Saskatchewan. I had the privilege of growing up with my community, immersed in our Dënë culture and language. It’s important I introduce the heart of my family, to give thanks and respect to my kinships and relational connections to the water-boreal world.

My hama [mother], late [haba] father and late sëtsunë [grandmother] and sëtsíë [grandfather] were/are strong influences and educators in my life. My hama is an amazing Dënë language specialist, educator and successfully achieved her Masters in Northern Governance and Development, my late haba was the principal, educator, and hockey coach of Ducharme Elementary School of La Loche. My sëtsunë was an incredibly talented beader, gatherer, provider and business woman of La Loche and my sëtsíë was a king trapper, tracker, hunter, provider and business man of La Loche. My family and their love and embrace for their culture, nuhë nënë [home], nih [land], tu [water] and ëch’ërë [animals] has always and continues to be my inspiration and drive for my passion of our environment, both locally and globally.

I completed my 4 year Bachelor Arts degree in Indigenous Studies with a strong background in ‘Northern Resource Economics and Policy’ and ‘Analysis of Environmental Management and Policy Making’ with the goal of joining the Master of Sustainable Environmental Management program with the School of Environment and Sustainability (SENS) at the University of Saskatchewan, to work collaboratively with both Indigenous and
interdisciplinary scientific knowledge systems, developing robust relationships and partnerships between northern Indigenous communities and researchers from all disciplines.

I’m an independent Treaty 8 Territory consultant for collaborative environmental research and I’ve worked with SENS Professor Graham Strickert at the Global Institute for Water Security with Global Water Futures, on a beneficial management practices (BMPs) project, that focused on exploring stakeholders’ subjective perspectives about BMPs and policy with his human dimensions of water security lab team. I also had the honour of receiving the global planetary health scholarship and lived in Jinja, Uganda for the duration of 4 months.

In collaboration with the National Fisheries Resources Research Institute, our water science team and natural scientist Dr. William Okello, conducted a nutrient enrichment experiment designed to measure in situ, the impacts of different forms of nitrogen on cyanobacteria growth in Napoleon Gulf on Lake Victoria, Uganda.

My water experiences have introduced me to beautiful water communities and water stories and lead me to the creation of our innovative community driven project entitled “Beading A New World: Collective Climate Accountability and Adaptation Project" (CCAAP). Together with our academic collaborators, Professors Milla Rautio, Jules Blais, Lori Bradford, John P. Smol, government, industry and organization partners (Clearwater River Dënë Nation Band, Métis Nation Saskatchewan, CanNorth Environmental Consulting, NexGen Energy Ltd., and Fission Uranium Corp.) are leading an ECCC Climate Action and Awareness Project that establishes Indigenous communities as equal treaty partners in Canada’s transition to a low-carbon and sustainable society. I believe we will create powerful relationships that allow science to be more effective in developing community led water security solutions by establishing a “new way” of exploring and navigating different knowledge systems with Indigenous communities.

Clearwater River Dënë Nation, is a Dënë and Métis northern community, home to the boreal forest with a growing population of 10,000 community members. Our community is a resilient community that struggles with social, economic, and environmental policies. We are at risk to adapt to climate change, and with new multiple uranium mining development companies in the southwestern Athabasca Basin of Saskatchewan, there is significant potential to affect our environment. CCAAP will provide interdisciplinary knowledge to strengthen our community’s health and well-being challenges.

We Dënësųłinë have been on our sacred land for 12,000 years and we depend on hunting, trapping, and gathering not only for food to support the local economy but also as the basis of our axiology to our Dënësųłinë culture and social identity. Some of the concerns we face as a community include the changes in the abundance and availability of our healthy traditional keystone food sources, our perceived reduction in weather predictions, the extreme rise and drop in water levels, and the safety of traveling in changing weather conditions in our cold climate with inadequate infrastructure. These concerns pose serious challenges to our human health and well-being.

CCAAP has the potential to give our youth a lifeline. We are hopeful that CCAAP will provide vital opportunities for youth to be inspired to combine their life experiences and knowledge with careers that would benefit communities through enhancing aquatic ecosystem functions and services. These opportunities will give them voice, sense of purpose, self-empowerment, and confidence.

Ëdë́lot’ınë dı̨ ́ltsı is a Dënësųłinë concept, meaning to create relations, understanding and accepting we are all interconnected and related present and future. Ëdë́lot’ınë dı̨ltsı̨ promotes the purpose of ethical and equal science systems. CCAAP will develop Ëdë́lot’ınë dı̨ltsı̨ and enhance inclusive climate change solutions and water security for our communities.

Marsi Cho [Thank You], Hotíë ëdëk’úlní [Take Care].
Dënë Cheecham-Uhrich