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Tłı̨chǫ ‘research party’ unites scientists and residents

Claire Hiscock (left) and Anne Pleydon of Hotiì ts'eeda at the Tłı̨chǫ government's research expo. Megan Miskiman/Cabin Radio
Claire Hiscock (left) and Anne Pleydon of Hotiì ts'eeda at a Tłı̨chǫ Government research expo. Megan Miskiman/Cabin Radio

The Tłı̨chǫ Government hosted a research expo in Behchokǫ̀ on Wednesday to showcase scientific work happening in the region.

The expo asked Tłı̨chǫ citizens for feedback and perspectives on research projects, while presenting a chance for residents to learn about future engagement opportunities.

Rebecca Bourgeois, a PhD student at the University of Alberta and co-organizer of the expo, has been working with the Tłı̨chǫ Government to create a digital archive of Tłı̨chǫ stories, photos, videos and cultural belongings.

Bourgeois said the expo played an important role in giving people a sneak peek of the archive, sharing research projects with the public, and allowing Tłı̨chǫ citizens to share ideas and concerns about research being performed in the region.

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“A lot of people are still at the point in their research where Tłı̨chǫ citizens can still get involved, so we’re here to shed light on that,” she explained.

“It’s like a fun little research party and it’s great to share, teach, and learn from everyone who’s here today.”

Reseach support group Hotiì ts’eeda was represented by executive director Anne Pleydon and senior research and policy advisor Claire Hiscock.

Hotiì ts’eeda is what’s known as a Spor unit – supporting patient-oriented research – hosted by the Tłı̨chǫ Government. It receives funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to “help build a capacity for research in the North and to help northern and Indigenous researchers to do their work,” said Pleydon.

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“One of the things that makes it hard for people to navigate is research worlds and funding worlds. It’s very intimidating, very Western, and a very colonized view of learning and academia and accessing money.”

Pleydon says the expo provides an opportunity to be creative and flexible in exploring what research means, something Hotiì ts’eeda actively promotes, while allowing researchers to meet each other and Tłı̨chǫ citizens.

“A lot of our work is built on relationships, so it’s important to keep coming out and building more relationships with folks, especially because we have a pretty new staff team,” said Hiscock.

“We need to come out and meet everybody and let them know that we are here, and that they can reach out. We want to support them, and that starts with a conversation.”

NWT Geological Survey assistant director Kumari Karunaratne, who attended the expo, said being present meant helping northern residents to understand the geological diversity of the territory.

“We have everything from very old Canadian Shield rocks, we have mountain, we have areas where we’re having sediments being deposited, we have very rich mineral resources,” she explained.

“It’s incredibly important for people in the Northwest Territories to understand what geoscience is and how it relates to the decisions that affect their lives, whether it’s going out on the land, whether it’s their jobs, decisions that need to be made about projects.”

Permafrost was a question for many attendees, Karunaratne said, allowing her to hear Tłı̨chǫ residents’ first-hand experiences with the phenomenon.

She hoped her presence would help to ensure that residents aren’t concerned about forthcoming projects “and aren’t afraid to share their experiences with us and ask questions, so they can make good decisions about their land.”