Sharing Her Love for the Land and Water Empowers Young Woman from Tadoule Lake

Rebecca Thorassie is a quiet young woman who is finding her voice by speaking to her remote northern Manitoba community about the need to protect their lands and waters. 

Rebecca, 20, was among 15 Dene, Cree and Inuit youth who spent a week in the woods of Sayisi Dene First Nation for the Tadoule Lake Stewardship Summit which was led by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society’s Manitoba Chapter in September 2019.  

The summit aimed to foster future leaders, teach valuable stewardship skills & connect Indigenous youth with traditional practices. 

Rebecca was proud to welcome the other youth to Sayisi Dene First Nation and to learn about the global significance of the lands and waters her family has called home for generations. 

The pristine Seal River Watershed is one of the last great wild spaces on our planet. At 50,000 square kilometers it is nearly the size of Nova Scotia. There are no permanent roads, no mines, no industrial development of any kind. 

Sayisi Dene First Nation is partnering with its Dene, Cree and Inuit neighbours to conserve the entire watershed as an Indigenous Protected Area. 

Rebecca’s experience volunteering with CPAWS as a Wilderness Stewardship Ambassador led her to a part-time job as a Youth Ambassador with the Seal River Watershed Indigenous Protected Area Initiative. 

“I wanted this job because its a opportunity to learn more about my beautiful homeland and surrounding areas,” Rebecca said. “I want to encourage and keep our traditions alive while developing a stronger independent voice for myself and my community.”

Rebecca Thorassie from Sayisi Dene First Nation presenting her community service project at the Canadian Wilderness Stewardship conference in Ottawa in February 2020 (credit: Michelle Ewacha)

Rebecca and the other youth from northern Manitoba and Nunavut were required to complete community volunteer service projects that engaged other youth through a peer-education model as part of the Canadian Wilderness Stewardship Program.

The CPAWS program aimed to connect youth from across Canada to their natural spaces and teach them the importance of community service. The program was funded by the Government of Canada under the Canada Service Corps program.

Rebecca expressed an interest in teaching other youth from her community about the importance of taking care of the land and water by doing simple things like picking up garbage and recycling. 

Rebecca shared the knowledge she gained from the Youth Stewardship Summit in a presentation to grade 6-12 students at Peter Yassie Memorial School in Tadoule Lake.

“Protecting this watershed is really important, cause when you guys get older you will have fresh water if you guys can start doing something now,” Rebecca told the students in January 2020.

“Keeping the land clean too – recycling and all that, it can go a long way.”

Rebecca Thorassie from Sayisi Dene First Nation teaching other youth from her community about the importance of conserving the Seal River Watershed. (credit: Michelle Ewacha)

CPAWS Manitoba also visited the classroom to talk about the importance of watershed conservation and demonstrate environmental monitoring techniques to the students, including how trail cameras and GPS collar devices can be used to monitor species at risk, such as barren ground caribou.

Rebecca and the other Wilderness Stewardship Ambassadors presented their projects at the Canadian Wilderness Stewardship conference in Ottawa in February 2020. Other wilderness trips organized as part of the Canadian Wilderness Stewardship Program took place on the Restigouche River in New Brunswick and the Noir River in Ottawa Valley.