Tundra Science and Culture Camp teaches more than science

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It’s July 26: It’s time to take off to the Tundra Science and Culture Camp. For two decades, high-school-aged students from across the NWT have spent 10 days each summer at Yamba Tì (Daring Lake), immersed in science and culture.

The camp is held at the Tundra Ecosystem Research Station, itself a model camp designed with the latest in energy and waste reduction technology and powered primarily by solar and wind power. But that’s not what keeps students and staff coming back year after year. For participants, it’s the natural environment and the unique way Indigenous culture helps them learn about the world around them.

The Tundra Ecosystem Research Station is located 140 km northeast of Wekweètì, and 275 km north of Łutsel K'e. Participants access the site by float plane from Yellowknife, watching eagerly as the trees disappear during the 1.5 hour flight.

Students come from high schools across the NWT. Before they go choose their career paths, they get a unique taste of the territory they grew up in, with a program led by experts in Indigenous knowledge, culture and environmental science. By working and studying alongside Tłı̨chǫ elders, GNWT experts, educators, environmental stewards, and on-site graduate student researchers, students learn by doing and get a taste of what career possibilities could be open to them.

But it’s where culture helps to contextualize the science that really has an impact on students. Participants learn about Indigenous knowledge, the Tłı̨chǫ language and human history, alongside science.

After wading chest-deep into the lake for an aquatic ecology session, students might return to camp to learn from Tłı̨chǫ elders how to make a drum and play hand games. They hike along the hill that overshadows the Research Station, part of the longest esker in Canada — a winding ridge of sand and gravel left behind by glaciers — that runs for 800 kilometres from the NWT-Nunavut border to the Acasta River, northwest of Wekweèti. Students reflect on how Indigenous peoples have safeguarded the land for millennium. They’ll spot Ekwǫ̀, the Tłı̨chǫ word for caribou, and learn to Asìı naxıts’ǫ sıı, wet’à done ts’àhdı, share what you have, from Tłı̨chǫ Elders practicing Dene Laws every day. Be it a new or expanded Tłı̨chǫ vocabulary, memories of the colours of the land, or a story from every hike long and short, everyone leaves with unmatched experiences and understandings.

For more information visit https://www.enr.gov.nt.ca/en/services/tundra-science-and-culture-camp. To apply for this year’s camp, contact tundracamp_camptoundra@gov.nt.ca for information about our 2022 program.