The Yellowknife Dene First Nations have signed an agreement with the federal government to establish a new national park.

Thaidene Nëné – meaning “Land of the Ancestors,” – stretches along the east arm of Great Slave, over 14,305 squared kilometres of boreal forest, tundra and water. It is home to many animal species, including barren-ground caribou, moose, Arctic foxes and wolverines amongst others.

The Thaidene Nëné land includes traditional hunting and gathering grounds for Yellowknife’s Dene people, who will retain their right to hunt and fish on the land, along with other Indigenous populations.

In a press release, Chief Ernest Betsina of the Yellowknife Dene First Nation said the establishment of this park respects the wishes of his band’s elders and people.

“This park is a magnificent symbol and reminder of the Creator’s power and beauty represented by the land, birds, fish, animals, and pristine water which will be shared with the rest of Canada to respect and protect,” said Bestina in a press release. “The Yellowknives Dene First Nation looks forward to working with the Government of Canada and the other co-signees of the agreement in the promotion and operation of the park.”

The federal government will be providing $40 million towards infrastructure and for the operations of the national park reserve in the first 12 years. Thereafter they will spend $3.4 million annually for operations.

Thaidene Nëné has the status of national park “reserve” because land claims with the Akaitcho Dene First Nations, and the Northwest Territory Métis Nation still need to be settled. The North Slave Métis Alliance also assert rights in the area.

The agreement also included the establishment of a board to manage the park based on a consensus model, that will guide the future of the national park reserve.

“Our national parks and national heritage places should honour the contributions of Indigenous peoples, their histories, cultures, and special relationship with traditional lands and waters,” Michael McLeod, Member of Parliament for Northwest Territories, said in a press release.

“That’s what today’s agreement is all about – solidifying the role of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation in the cooperative management of Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve, as well as maximizing tourism benefits for their membership and supporting their involvement in interpretive and guardian activities for this treasured place.”