was born and raised in Denendeh as the daughter of Chief Jim Antoine of Łíídlįį Kų́ę́ (Fort Simpson) and Celine Antoine. She was taught traditional art by her granny, Judith Buggins, at a young age. Melaw attended the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she acquired an Associates Degree in Two Dimensional Arts, with a focus on painting. She remained in the Southwest for 8 years. Melaw returned to the Deh Cho in 2008, to raise her two boys where they can truly understand the interconnectedness and reciprocal relationship Dene share with the land. Melaw is a two time Dechinta alumni and Board Member and an active member of Łíídlįį Kų́ę́ First Nation, attending annual regional and territorial leadership meetings and treaty conferences. She has been nurturing the arts of sewing, moose hide tanning, and traditional medicine, as well as researching her people’s history to teach the coming generations to maintain the pride and strength found in their indigenous culture.
Moses Hernandez was born and raised in Somba K’e/Yellowknife. Although his father is from Nicaragua (Mayan), and mother is from the Philippines, he has always called Denendeh home. He has a BA Honours in Political Science with a Subsidiary in Aquatic Resources from St. Francis Xavier University, a Certificate in Arctic Studies from the University of Lapland (Finland), and is currently completing an MA in Polar Law from the University of Akureyri (Iceland).
George Bayly is from Behchokǫ̀, part of the Tłįchǫ Nation. George Bayly is a community youth leader, and a member of the community actions research team (CART). With Mason, George is a member of CART, the Community Action Research Team.
Mason Mantla hails from Behchokǫ̀ and is a member of the Tłįchǫ Nation. Mason is a community healthy research leader. After graduating high school, Mason applied for Dechinta. During Dechinta, Mason developed a community based video mentoring program for health promotion across the Tłįchǫ Nation. Hired by the Tłįchǫ government, Mason has spent the year after Dechinta changing the health outcomes for youth in Tłįchǫ through involving them in heath research. Mason participated in Dechinta with his daughter Evie, 2 and his partner Lydia Rabesca. Mason is 19 years old.
Mandee McDonald is a Swampy Cree/Metis woman with Norwegian and Spanish ancestry. She grew up in isolated northern communities. Born in Churchill Manitoba she relocated with her family to Yellowknife, NWT at age 10. She is currently competing her final year of an Honours Undergraduate Degree in Political Science with a minor in Indigenous Studies at the University of Victoria where she works as the Outreach Coordinator for the University of Victoria Women’s Centre. Mandee is attending Dechinta University to develop a more holistic understanding of specifically northern issues such as unsustainable resource dependency, Indigenous self-determination, and Indigenous-settler relations, and to discuss these topics in a safe space away from the typical university setting. Her future goals are to do a Masters Degree in Political Science looking at different forms of resistance to corporate and state control in urban Indigenous/Settler communities.
was born in Churchill, Manitoba on December 27th, 1987. Her parents are Allan and Mary Code. Angela spent her childhood in her home Sayisi Dene reserve at Tadoule Lake, northern Manitoba. There, she was surrounded by the Chipewyan language, Dene culture, family and community of her people. At the age of ten, Angela and her family moved to Whitehorse, Yukon. Her parents chose Whitehorse as a new home to give their children better western educational and recreational opportunities; to expand their own careers and also to ensure the family maintained their northern identities. Since the move, Angela and her family return to their Sayisi Dene homeland as often as possible. Months following her graduation from high school in 2005, Angela began her post secondary education at the University of British Columbia (UBC). Following various family member deaths and sicknesses, Angela took time off school to work, to be with family (in Whitehorse and Tadoule), and also to travel throughout North and South America. Angela returned to UBC in 2010 and recently graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree – Major in First Nations Studies and a Minor in First Nations Languages and Linguistics. Angela’s future career goals include following in her parents footsteps in becoming a filmmaker. She is particularly interested in Indigenous language and cultural revitalization and also in developing programs and general support in building healthier and more sustainable communities.
Matthew Wildcat grew up in Maskwacis (Hobbema, AB) and now lives in Edmonton. For the past three years he has worked in Maskwacis in education and consulting. He will be starting his PhD in Political Science at UBC in the fall. He plans to continue research on Plains Indigenous lifeways, Band Governments and the future of Indigenous political collectivities.
Aaron Spitzer was born and raised in Indiana. For 15 years he’s worked as a journalist, travel-guide writer and cruise-ship guide in Alaska, Antarctica, Nunavut, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. He’s currently the editor of Up Here, the magazine of Canada’s North and the winner of Canada’s 2010 “magazine of the year” award. He is researching an M.A. thesis about the interrelationship between public government and aboriginal self-government in the Northwest Territories.
Deanna Leonard was born and raised in Hay River, NT. Deanna is a fisheries biologist for the Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) based out of Yellowknife, NT. She works extensively with communities in the NWT for the collaborative management of aboriginal fisheries. Deanna is interested in the Dechinta program because it offers an opportunity to learn about northern aboriginal culture in the context of the governance in the North and provides a foundation for respect and understanding.
Kelly Cumming was born and raised in Sǫ̀mba K’è (Yellowknife). Kelly holds an undergraduate degree in Native Studies from Trent University. For the past two and half years, Kelly has worked as the Executive Assistant for Chief Edward Sangris of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation. Kelly is passionate about constitutional development.
Kathleen Graham is from the K’atł’odeeche First Nation (Hay River). Kathleen holds an undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies from University of Manitoba. Kathleen is currently a regulatory officer at the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board in Yellowknife. Kathleen was inspired to come to Dechinta because it offers an opportunity to learn ways to incorporate Dene culture into her life.
is an Inuk/Haitian woman who was born and raised in Denendeh by her mother, Marie-Helene Laraque, and also by a large extended family including her stepfather, Francois Paulette. She attended Dechinta in 2010 and has a BA degree in Anthropology and Indigenous Studies from the University of Victoria. She dedicated her work primarily to the study of Denendeh’s political history and the colonial reality across the country between Indigenous peoples and the Canadian state. She also focused on the strength, resilience and power of Indigenous women in their perseverance toward the healing and emancipation of their communities. Her life dream is to encourage Indigenous Northerners, and especially our youth, to regain our strength, unity, and brilliant vitality as Indigenous peoples so that we can maintain our homelands, identities and ways of life with dignity and confidence.