We are continuing to expand to meet the growing needs of Indigenous communities and students in the north. Dechinta staff are in the community – Háyorîla – and consider each other family. We work together in a unique Indigenous governance structure that allows us to make decisions effectively, fairly and in an environment that invites ongoing thoughtful communication in order to ensure that Dechinta programs are operating successfully.


At Dechinta we do our best to provide a wholesome environment through Indigenous land based learning and incorporate all parts of a healthy lifestyle. Children and elders are at the heart of everything that we do.

We all play a part in ensuring that our programs are full of healthy, land based learning in a community of support and respect for each other.




Kelsey Wrightson, recently joined Dechinta as our Transitional Director of Policy and Programming. Kelsey grew up in Edmonton Alberta, and completed her PhD at the University of British Columbia in 2015. After finishing school, she worked for a year with Dylan Robinson at Queen’s University in the Centre for Indigenous Arts, and then returned to UBC and worked for 2 years in research grant administration. She is very excited to move to Somba’ke and work with the impressive team at Dechinta, and is especially looking forward to working on language and arts programming.




Catherine Lafferty


Catherine joined our team as Director of Community Development and Indigenous Education in January 2018. Catherine is a Dene woman from the Northwest Territories, her First Nation affiliation is with the Yellowknives Dene First Nation for which she sits on the Chief and Council as a council member. Catherine is a strong advocate for Indigenous empowerment.


Catherine’s post-secondary educational background started when she received a certificate in Aboriginal Child and Family Services in 2006. In 2013 she received a Bachelor of Arts in Justice Studies from Royal Roads University. Catherine considers herself a lifelong learner and is a strong advocate for tackling Indigenous issues, particularly in the north.


Catherine is a visionary, motivated to create positive changes in her community and inspire others to follow their dreams. She is a mother of two children who are first and foremost in her life. In her spare time, Catherine devotes her energy into her love of writing and is a published author.




Glen Coulthard


Glen is Yellowknives Dene and an associate professor in First Nations and Indigenous Studies and the Department of Political Science at the University of British Columbia. He is the author of Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014), winner of the 2016 Caribbean Philosophical Association’s Frantz Fanon Award for Outstanding Book, the Canadian Political Science Association’s CB Macpherson Award for Best Book in Political Theory, published in English or French, in 2014/2015, and the Rik Davidson Studies in Political Economy Award for Best Book in 2016.

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson


Leanne is a Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg scholar, writer, and artist with a Ph.D. from the University of Manitoba. She is on the faculty at the Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning and a distinguished visiting professor at Ryerson University in Toronto. She is the author of Dancing on Our Turtle’s Back, The Gift Is in the Making, Islands of Decolonial Love, and This Accident of Being Lost, and editor of Lighting the Eighth Fire, This Is an Honour Song (with Kiera Ladner), and The Winter We Danced (Kino-nda-niimi Collective). Leanne is a member of Alderville First Nation, in Ontario, Canada, and has been engaged in Indigenous land based education for twenty years.


Erin Freeland Ballantyne


Erin is the Co-founder of Dechinta and was born and raised in Sǫ̀mba K’è / Yellowknife on Akaitcho territory and was the first Rhodes Scholar from the Canadian North. A political ecologist and proud mom of 3, Erin holds a PhD from Oxford University. Her research, Sustainability’s Paradox: Community Health, Climate Change and Petrocapitalism develops an understanding of climate change as a force of violence directly linked to petrocapitalism and colonization, and details the importance of Indigenous laws and governance steering us towards a sustainable future. Erin is a hunter, berry picker and participatory video researcher. Committed to land-based education as a space for creating and imaging healthy futures that are intergenerational and accessible to all, Erin is proud to work with incredible faculty, students and elders at Dechinta. Erin will be on research leave from October 1st to February 1 2019.


Gordie Liske


Gordie Liske is Weledeh Yellowknives Dene from the Yellowknives Dene First Nation.  He is a band councilor in Dettah and works closely with local Elders on the land. Gordie lives in Somba’ke and is an instructor at Dechinta.


Berna Martin


Berna is an Elder who often supports students during our on the land programs at Dechinta sharing her language and dry fish making skills with the students. She is a member of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation and is a translator who often shares her Wiiliideh language with the students.


Paul Mackenzie


Paul Mackenzie is an Elder and on the land Instructor at Dechinta. Paul is a member of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation. He is veryknowledgeable of Dene protocols and traditional bush medicine.


Celine Marlowe


Celine Marlowe is an Elder from Lutsel K’e and she is Dechinta’s expert hide tanning instructor.


Samual Gargan 


Samual Gargan is an Elder born and raised in Redknife. Sam shares his vast knowledge of Dene politics as well as his bush skills with students.


Randy Baillargeon


Randy was born in Yellowknife and lived in Dettah all his life. He serves on the Yellowknives Dene First Nation council and is an avid hunter and is a strong traditional Dene man who travels across the country for Dene drumming. He is passionate about his Indigenous culture.


Josh Barichello


Josh Barichello is a settler who grew up on the territories of the Kaska Dena, Shúhtaot’ine, and Kwanlinn Dunn. For the past 10 years, Josh has worked with the Ross River Dena Elders Council on various Indigenous Knowledge projects, and on developing and facilitating land-based education programs. He is also currently pursuing an MA in Geography at UBC. Josh comes to Dechinta from the Dena community of Tu Łidlini (Ross River) where he lives and works.


Riley Kucheran


Riley Kucheran (Biigtigong Nishnaabeg) is a Two Spirit graduate student at Ryerson University in Toronto. His research looks at Indigenous clothing and fashion design as part of our cultural and economic resurgence. At Dechinta he worked with students as an Academic Support person on their assignments, essays, and presentations. He says: “Miigwetch!”


Madeline Whetung


Madeline Whetung as one of our Land-Based Coordinators.  She is currently completing a PhD in Geography through UBC in the Coastal territory of the Skwxwu7mesh, Tsleil-Waututh, and Xʷməθkʷəy̓əm. She is a citizen of the Nishnaabeg nation and a member of Curve Lake First Nation in Ontario. She has extensive land-based education experience and we are honoured she’ll be supporting and mentoring our students on site.


Farraminah Francis


Farraminah grew up in Montreal and has been a Primary Care Nurse Practitioner in the North since 2015. Offering Nurse Practitioner services to Dechinta has been an absolute pleasure. Her and her 5 month old have enjoyed developing their connection to the land sustaining them alongside Indigenous elders, teachers and students.



Dechinta Centre for Research & Learning would not be possible without the hardworking and dedication of many people that have been involved since the beginning. Dechinta would like to acknowledge Mandee McDonald, Melaw Nakehk’o, Siku Allooloo, Ethel Lamothe, Jim Antoine, Celine Antoine, Jane Dragon, Tyler Smith-Tsetta, Heidi Stark, Lianne Charlie and Michelle Daigle to name a few. This does not include the many other amazing Elders, youth, Indigenous community governments and alumni that have been significant to the success of Dechinta and remain long lasting supportive advocates along the way!

Mahsi Cho!