Board of Directors

Board of Directors


Glen Coulthard, Chair of the Board of Directors, 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.

Siku Allooloo is an Inuit/Haitian/Taino writer, community builder and Dene family member from Somba K’e, Denendeh. She is an alumnus of the Dechinta pilot program and has worked with Dechinta in several capacities throughout the years, including as a land-based facilitator and co-instructor since 2017. Siku holds a BA in Anthropology and Indigenous Studies from the University of Victoria and is part of a lineage of activists and leaders who have raised her to be close to the land. Siku is the winner of Briarpatch Magazine’s 2016 Writing in the Margin’s contest for creative nonfiction, and her other work has been published in The Malahat Review, The Guardian, Truthout, The Northern Journal, NationsRising, Rabble, and The Winter We Danced: Voices from the Past, The Future, and the Idle No More Movement.

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.

Cheryl Mandeville is a Dechinta alumni living in Somba k’e, in Chief Drygeese Territory, Denendeh. She is Dene/Cree originally from Deninu kue and currently attending the Business Administration Program at Aurora College.

Tyler Smith- Tsetta is a young, carefree, self determined individual with deep roots in the N.W.T. Currently residing in his home community of Dettah, soft spoken while keeping an open heart and mind to his surroundings. Has a deep understanding of social dynamics, often sitting patiently among his peers before speaking to enrich there experience. Attended Kaw Tay Whee school in Dettah before attending Weledeh Catholic school and graduating from St Patrick’s High School in 2014. Went to a business course for Aurora College in Yellowknife learning the fundamentals of marketing, market competition, and consumer demand before completing the course the following year. Often volunteering in his spare time, has volunteered for the city of Yellowknife at such events as the Long John Jamboree, fundraisers, Sidedoor and the youth skateboard ministry. Went to Dechinta Bush University as a student for the spring semester graduating 2017, came back for the summer short course as an Alumni writing a newsletter for UBC and returning for the Dechinta Rivers semester as a participant. Nominated as one of the Board of Directors for Dechinta by his fellow peers, he just wants to strive for the future of Dechinta and their Values.

“Dechinta has been a life changing experience and I want others like myself to have a better understanding of who they are and a renewed love of the land and its potential”.

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson 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.

Lois Edge holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Policy Studies with a specialization in Indigenous Peoples Education from the University of Alberta, where she also earned a Master of Arts in Anthropology and Bachelor of Arts.

Indigenous to the North and raised in Fort Smith and Hay River, Northwest Territories, Lois claims a rich ancestral legacy and northern cultural heritage of French, Cree, Chipewyan and Metis maternal ancestry and Gwich’in, Scottish, English paternal ancestry.

Her doctoral dissertation, inspired by her grandmother, applied digital storytelling as alternative representation in research in an examination of Indigenous women’s ancestral knowledge and ancient art forms in relation to Indigenous identity, lifelong learning, and wellness of Indigenous people. Her work is intended to draw attention to the many contributions of Athapaskan women from northern Canada whose legacy is a rich endowment of Indigenous art forms from which current and future generations may continue to reclaim Indigenous ways of being.

Current Nexen Chair in Indigenous Leadership at the Banff Centre, Lois is an instructor with Educational Policy Studies at the University of Alberta and Centre for World Indigenous Knowledge and Research at Athabasca University.



Steve Ellissteve website is the Northern Senior Associate at Tides Canada. Based in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Stephen works with Northern communities and partners to create and implement a strategic granting program that builds capacity and advances solutions to integrate social, cultural, environmental, and economic challenges in the North.

After completing a Masters in Environmental Studies at the University of Waterloo, Stephen and his family lived in Lutsel K’e, a Dene community on the East Arm of Great Slave Lake, for over 12 years. During this time he focused on work helping indigenous peoples, governments, and industry tackle tough land and resource challenges. He is a member of the Environmental Monitoring Advisory Board for the Diavik Diamond Mine and a Director for the Dechinta Institute for Research and Learning. He previously chaired the Akaitcho Screening Board and was a long-standing Director of the Denesoline Corporation and a member of the NWT Protected Areas Strategy Steering Committee.

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Dr. Brendan Hokowhitu is currently Dean, Faculty of Native Studies, at the University of Alberta.

Dr. Hokowhitu holds a Ph.D. in Māori Studies/Physical Education, a Masters of Arts, and two Bachelor degrees. He has built a highly respected national and international research reputation; specializations include Indigenous culture and theory, Indigenous sport/physical education/health, Indigenous masculinity, and Indigenous film and media. He received a Government panellist appointment to the prestigious Tertiary Education Commission Performance Based Research Fund, Māori Knowledge and Development, which oversees all research in the Māori knowledge area and directs State funding to all tertiary institutions. Dr. Hokowhitu is prepared to lead the promotion and support of high-quality research in a collaborative and interdisciplinary manner. His achievements in innovative teaching have reached communities beyond Otago and New Zealand. In one instance, Dr. Hokowhitu developed the first completely online Master of Indigenous Studies program in the world having perceived that many indigenous leaders, already committed to community responsibilities, encountered geographical obstacles to higher education. He is also an inaugural elected officer of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, a key association in the developing field of Indigenous Studies.


Rita Mueller has called the Northwest Territories “home” since 1989.  She currently resides and works in Behchoko, and has lived and worked in a variety of different communities including Fort Resolution, Yellowknife, and Hay River.

Rita is currently the Assistant Deputy Minister for the Government of the Northwest Territories’ Department of Education, Culture, and Employment (ECE). A respected community member, Rita has previously served as the Chief Executive Officer of the Tłįcho Community Services Agency (TCSA), the Director of Early Childhood and K-12 School Services for ECE, and was the principal of Chief Jimmy Bruneau Regional High School (CJBS) in Behchoko for 13 years. Rita is also an elected Councillor of the Community Government of Behchoko and, since 2006, she has contributed to the educational mandate of the NWT Human Rights Commission as a NWT Human Rights Commission Member.

jennieJennie Vandermeer is a lifelong Northerner; originally from Deline (Sahtugotine) and now residing in Yellowknife. She has worked with the Government of the Northwest Territories in the environmental field for almost a decade with the NWT Protected Areas Strategy and now with the NWT Water Stewardship Strategy. Armed with a Bachelor of Environmental Science Degree from Royal Roads University, Jennie is pursuing her passion for explaining science to Northerners in meaningful way that will help guide decision making. Jennie is very excited to be involved with Dechinta because, “land -based learning is how my ancestors passed on knowledge; that’s how I learned”. Education shouldn’t be about being stuck in a stuffy lecture hall, education is life-long and it’s all around you, eveyday. Dechinta captures this in every way.


Sarah Arngna’naaqsaraha joined the Dechinta Board of Directors in February 2014 and now sits as Vice Chair of the Board. Outside of Dechinta Sarah is a Crown prosecutor with the Kitikmeot Sub-Office of the Nunavut Regional Office of Public Prosecution Service of Canada. Based in Yellowknife, Sarah has returned north after completing ten years of her education in southern Canada. Her joint honours Bachelor’s degree was earned in 2009 from Trent University in International Development and Business Administration. Her Juris Doctor was completed in 2012 and is from the University of Victoria. She was called to the Northwest Territories bar in September 2013.

Raised by a teacher, Sarah has always believed that education is fundamental to well-developed and thriving communities. Sarah feels strongly that her education has significantly contributed to her personal development and she looks forward to working to help others on that path. It is exactly the type of educational facility that Dechinta is and strives to be that Sarah sees as the future of higher learning in northern Canada – a fusion of western academia and traditional indigenous knowledge. She is very excited at the opportunity to work with Dechinta staff and other Board members to maintain and grow this innovative educational institution.


Candice Lys, was raised in a very large Métis family in Fort Smith and now resides in Yellowknife. She holds a Master’s degree in Health Promotion and is a PhD Candidate at the University of Toronto Dalla Lana School of Public Health. As a Research Associate with the Institute for Circumpolar Health Research (ICHR), Candice is the Project Lead for the FOXY (Fostering Open eXpression among Youth) sexual health education program. FOXY is a peer-led, arts-based sexual health program that uses drama and the arts to facilitate discussion and education regarding sexual health, healthy sexuality, and positive decision-making among young women across the Northwest Territories. Candice is involved with numerous territorial, national, and international health organizations, including the Member at Large for the Canadian Society for Circumpolar Health and a member of the National Aboriginal Council on HIV/AIDS. As a Northerner who has had to move many times to complete post secondary education in southern institutions, Candice has a deep interest in furthering non-traditional, Northern-led education that is dynamic, responsive to the needs of students, and accessible to all.

Paul Betsina  is the appointed Board of Directors member of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation. Paul serves as a counselor for the Yellowkives Dene, as well as a board member of the Deton’Cho Corporation, the economic development arm of the Yellowknives Dene.