Hotıì ts’eeda creates tools to help understanding of UN declaration

John B Zoe presents his UN declaration fish net analogy.

Hotıì ts’eeda has launched a series of tools to help people implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the NWT.

While the NWT and federal government have each committed to implementing the UN declaration, Hotıì ts’eeda says not everyone understands what the declaration does or what implementation in the territory might look like.

The research unit, which is hosted by the Tłı̨chǫ Government, has developed video and a website to help organizations, communities, researchers, and residents understand what the declaration means in the NWT.


Dr John B Zoe, Hotıì ts’eeda’s chair, told Cabin Radio to think of a traditional woven willow bark fish net – in this instance, a net cast across the world and its Indigenous peoples.

“If you catch a bigger fish, sometimes the sides of the net tear,” Zoe said. 

“If you cast an UNDRIP net across the world, the world is a big place with many Indigenous groups who have similar issues. In some areas, like in Canada, some parts might have a tear, because some work needs to be done in those areas.”

Zoe says Indigenous rights are supported by laws, policies and agreements that act like strands of a net. If the strands are weak or missing, the net can tear and, ultimately, may no longer support those rights.

The UN declaration, he adds, is like a k’alaaghaa – a tool used in parts of the NWT to mend fishing nets.


“UNDRIP is similar. It is a tool we can use to fix the tears in the net. It helps us to see where laws, policies and agreements are weak or not being implemented.” 

Hotıì ts’eeda, with a mandate to improve health-related research in the NWT, says helping people to understand and implement the UN declaration is one of its biggest priorities.

The unit says its resources on the topic were put together after extensive consultation with Indigenous lawyers, Elders and communities.

In some cases, Indigenous governments are already implementing the UN declaration by virtue of having sovereignty over their own health and wellness programs and services. 


In other instances, Hotıì ts’eeda hopes governments, other organizations and even individuals can use its guidelines to assess how they make decisions, how programs are funded and how different elements of the UN declaration can be implemented piece by piece.

Zoe says a next step will be to take some of the resources on a tour of the territory for use face-to-face in communities. Hotıì ts’eeda also hopes to evaluate the resources by asking northerners whether they are using the tools, what they think of them, and where improvements can be made.

Hotıì ts’eeda’s NWT-wide knowledge-sharing project based on the UN declaration – called Ełet’ànıt̀ s’eɂah, a Tłı̨chǫ description of relying on each other for strength – will highlight how Indigenous governments are implementing the declaration.

“If we can start having a dialogue, we can get a better understanding of how it might work,” said Zoe of the declaration.

“Everything becomes a legal interpretation and it can be overwhelming at times. The more dialogue you have, the more you think about it, the more you get a better understanding.”

This article appears through a paid partnership between Cabin Radio and Hotıì ts’eeda.