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In June of 2009, CPAWS celebrated the expansion of Nahanni National Park Reserve to over 6 times its original size. National Park status is one of many national and international conservation designations that have recognized the extraordinary natural and cultural values of the Nahanni region, including World Heritage Site (1978) and Canadian Heritage River (1987).

Nahanni National Park Reserve was created in 1972 to protect a 4,766 sq km corridor along the South Nahanni and Flat Rivers from hydroelectric development. Unique in the North, the Nahanni region provides habitat for a rich variety of vegetation and wildlife, including woodland caribou, grizzly bears, mountain goats, and Dall’s sheep. For countless generations, the South Nahanni watershed has been an important cultural and natural area for the Dehcho First Nations and the Sahtu Dene and Métis.

CPAWS worked collaboratively for nearly a decade with the Dehcho First Nations and Parks Canada to more meaningfully protect the natural and cultural values of this spectacular and globally-significant area. The final step needed to secure the entire watershed is to establish the proposedNaatsi’ihch’oh National Park Reserve upstream, to protect the Nahanni headwaters in the Sahtu Settlement Area.


In April 2009, the two peninsulas of Saoyú – ʔehdacho on Great Bear Lake were protected forever as a National Historic Site.  Saoyú – ʔehdacho is now protected and managed cooperatively by the community of Délįne and Parks Canada, according to their shared vision for the site. The Cooperative Management Agreement is based this shared vision for the site, and includes:

  • Setting up cultural learning and healing programs on the land;
  • Placing Délįne in a central role in site operations;
  • Respecting Sahtugot’ine harvesting rights, and
  • Maintenance of commemorative integrity and opportunities for Canadians to learn about the site and about Sahtugot’ine culture.

CPAWS-NWT was directly involved with protecting Saoyú – ʔehdacho since its entry into the NWT Protected Areas Strategy in the early 1990s.  Our contributions were recognized at the official announcement in Délįne in April 2009, and we count the protection of these special places as an enormous cooperative accomplishment.  

Saoyú – ʔehdacho National Historic Site is made up of two culturally and ecologically important peninsulas on the west side of Great Bear Lake, NWT, totalling over 5,500 sq km. Great Bear Lake is the largest lake wholly contained within Canada, and the ninth largest lake in the world.

Saoyú – ʔehdacho is deeply linked to the history and culture of the Sahtugot’ine, the people of Great Bear Lake.  These peninsulas are alive with rich oral histories and traditional place names that help to define who the Sahtugot’ine are as a people.  Through Saoyú – ʔehdacho, Délįne’s elders pass Sahtugot’ine culture on to younger generations. They contain exceptional examples of intact northern boreal forest and wildlife populations, including barren-ground caribou, grizzly bears, and peregrine falcons.