An illegal dumpsite just off Highway 5 has been cleaned up by K’atlodeeche First Nation (KFN).
It was the first time that the KFN environmental monitoring group called Nahendeh Kehotsendi – which translates to ‘watching the land’ – has done such a cleanup.
“Anything and everything has been thrown here,” said Sub-Chief Doug Lamalice, who was on hand for the Aug. 19 cleanup of the site, just off the south side of the highway about two kilometres east of the entrance to the Hay River Reserve.
The illegal dumpsite is not on the reserve, but is on KFN traditional land.
The members of Nahendeh Kehotsendi – who are sometimes called Guardians – removed tires, an old car, mattresses, stoves, garbage cans, recyclables, rubber hoses, wires and cables, and items that apparently came from a garage.
“It’s very disrespectful,” Lamalice said of the mess, noting that rusty equipment and garbage could hurt animals. “And if we don’t take care of it, it will just keep growing and growing and growing, and it will turn into something that’s uglier than it is right now.”
The sub-chief is particularly puzzled why the illegal dumpsite exists when the Town of Hay River’s municipal landfill is less than three kilometres away.
“They drive right past it,” he said. “I don’t understand. To actually haul a car out here into the bush? Did they drive it out here and kill it here?”
Lamalice was referring to the fact that the old vehicle – perhaps a Datsun – had been hit by a shotgun blast.
It is not known how long the illegal dumpsite existed.
“Probably quite a while because, if you look further back there, you see that some of the willows are grown in over the tires and stuff,” said Lamalice.” So they’ve been using this area for a while for that.”
As for who had been using the area as a dump, that is also unknown.
“It could be anybody,” said Lamalice.
The members of Nahendeh Kehotsendi were looking for clues, such as a possible vehicle identification number on the old car and receipts in the garbage.
“It’s illegal dumping and people have to know that there are consequences for those things,” said Lamalice.
That message was echoed by Amos Cardinal, one of the members of Nahendeh Kehotsendi participating in the cleanup.
“We’re going to be monitoring this more and more closely than we have in the past,” he said. “So anybody who has any ideas in terms of being out there and doing this type of thing, we’re going to be watching.”
Cardinal said such dumping is unacceptable anywhere and in any way.
“You can’t just go dump garbage anywhere, especially not within our traditional land,” he said.
Patrick Riley, the environmental program manager with KFN, oversees the Nahendeh Kehotsendi program.
Riley explained the members are often called Guardians because Nahendeh Kehotsendi is partially funded by the Indigenous Guardians Program, a federal initiative to fund Aboriginal governments and organizations to get out on the land and monitor their own territory.
“Nahendeh Kehotsendi is KFN’s environmental and monitoring program,” he said. “We get funding from the Guardians Program, from GNWT and us. We get funding from 15 different pots, and the Guardians Program is just one of them.”
Nahendeh Kehotsendi began in late 2016, said Riley. “And then it’s kind of slowly been working up, and now it’s a big part of what we do at KFN.”
Aside from cleaning up the dumpsite, Nahendeh Kehotsendi watches for many other things on the land, such as hunters not properly disposing of carcasses.
The members try to see anything that’s bad for the environment, said Riley. “We do not have enforcement capability, so we tend to document and see what’s going on and then we pass it on to the enforcement officers, so the DFO officers or the ENR officers or even RCMP.”
Nahendeh Kehotsendi hires casual workers as required for its projects.
Asked about the illegal dumpsite, Riley said, “I think it’s incredibly disrespectful, not only to the KFN people but to the people of Hay River, and the environment.”
Plus, Riley noted there are a few other suspected illegal dumpsites that KFN has heard about and will check out.
“And hopefully we can continue this, doing a few of these every year,” he said. “And let people know that we are watching the land and seeing people.”