Bistcho Lake is known to Dene Tha’ as Mbecho. Many Elders point to Mbecho as an ancestral place to which all living Dene Tha’ have a cultural connection. Surrounding the lake, there are thousands of hectares of wetlands, peatlands, boreal forest and the most extensive undisturbed lacustrine habitat in Alberta.
Dene Tha’ First Nation
Indigenous Protected Area
COUNCILLOR CHARLIE CHAMBAUD (Dene Tha’ First Nation): This lake and the surrounding area as a land… it meant a lot to our Dene people.
MATT MUNSON (Dene Tha’ First Nation): At Bistcho Lake, we’ve got a really unique opportunity to have some type of Indigenous protected and conserved area here.
KYLE MARTEL (Dene Tha’ First Nation): Once you find the connection there, you’ll be able to understand the stories more and maybe you’ll even see a dream or something about what it was like back then, or what it can be like.
ROY SALOPREE (Dene Tha’ First Nation): We can retrieve some of the stories from underneath the ground and whatever we find that’s… it’s… like, sacred or treasure from back then, you know, all these things can help us regain our strength and to teach us something new.
ASHLEY DIXON (Taiga Heritage Consulting): See, again, it has all the notching… it’s like a scraper. This is like use wear on it too… these little, tiny, small chippings.
So, most likely, this is… it’s a piece of a tool.
GRZEGORZ KWIECIEN (Taiga Heritage Consulting): People were living here for thousands of thousands of years. We are finding sites that are sometimes older than the pyramids in Egypt. We are finding really enormous sites. Like this one is a very good example; it goes for about 500 metres along this edge of the lake. Almost every test that we are doing here, it’s positive. We are finding either bone or like the small… small chips or flakes.
COUNCILLOR CHAMBAUD: A long time ago, my dad used to trap over here. I’m happy just to be at a site where my dad used to live. Even this hand cut with the axe, it’s just like a memory.
SCOTT DUGUID (Government of Alberta): And as we move into the subregional planning process, we really want to partner with the community, and really want to understand the interest of the community members. And I think for me, that’s very much why I’m here this week, up here at Bistcho Lake, is to sit down with the elders, and to sit down with community leadership, and with their technicians, and with Indigenous scientists, and really understand where we can find balance.
MATT MUNSON: We’ve got caribou wildlife camera traps out. THE LOCATION WAS SPECIFIED BY A DENE THA’ MEMBER.
KECIA KERR (CPAWS Northern Alberta): We have the chance to stop this herd from continuing on this decline, And Actually Give Them The Opportunity To Grow In That Population, rather than just trying to keep them from the brink of extinction.
All Albertans and Canadians can benefit from a healthy landscape in this corner of the province.
MATT MUNSON: The idea of an IPCA at Bistcho Lake is not something new. The Dene Tha’ have always considered Bistcho Lake to be an area for protection.
And we want to bring everyone together in a place that’s still intact, still pristine like Bistcho Lake, and we want to be able to work together, and do this together through a guardian program or having our people on the land, having our community members revitalize this place.
It’s a symbiotic relationship.
ROY SALOPREE: Once we heal ourselves, the land will heal, and the water will heal.
But I want to see things regain, restore…
And retrieve our land the way that our land treated us back then.