It is an exciting time at Dechinta…


We are continuing to expand to meet the growing needs of Indigenous communities and students in the north. Dechinta staff are a community 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.

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.

Madeline Whetung


We are happy to welcome Madeline Whetung as our Land-Based Coordinator.  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.

Dr. Kelsey Wrightson


Dr. 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.


Dr. Erin Freeland Ballantyne


Erin who was born and raised in Sǫ̀mba K’è / Yellowknife on Akaitcho territory is the Co-Founder of Dechinta. Erin 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 has been involved in Dechinta since the very beginning. 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.

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.



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, and Tyler Smith-Tsetta 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!