The Tsá Tué Biosphere Reserve is located in Canada’s Northwest Territories. The area is the homeland of the Sahtuto’ine, the ‘Bear Lake People’. It encompasses Great Bear Lake, the last pristine arctic lake, and part of its watershed. The Taiga that covers much of the site is of importance to wildlife species including the muskox, the general moose and the caribou. The only human residents in the site are the traditional First Nation Dene Déline, whose name means ‘where the water
flows’. Their community numbers 600 and is established on the western shore of the lake, where the population lives off harvesting and limited tourism activity.
Designation date: 2016
Administrative authorities: Déline Renewable Resources Council, Déline Land Corporation, Déline Got’ine Government, Parks Canada, Department of Lands, Government of the Northwest Territories.
Surface area (terrestrial and marine): 9,331,300 ha
Core area(s): 2,008,200 ha
Buffer zone(s): 7,236,500 ha
Transition area(s): 79,700 ha
Latitude: 64°01’01”N – 67°52’23”N
Longitude: 115°59’46”W – 125°26’24”W
Midpoint: 66°02’06”N – 120°35’17”W
The area includes Great Bear Lake, the largest lake lying entirely within Canada. Three eco-zones are represented in the watershed: the Taiga plains in the west, the Taiga shield to the southeast including the Camsell River drainage area, and the Southern Arctic eco-zone on the north-eastern rim of the lake. Within these eco-zones, lands can be further classified into nine eco-regions and a total of 22 eco-districts. Each of these smaller areas has a distinct combination of landforms, permafrost, soils, climate and biological communities that give them a unique character.
The largely unpolluted nature of the waters of the biosphere reserve, the healthy fisheries and the presence of several species in strong numbers throughout the watershed together produce an ecosystem with a high degree of ecological integrity. Species such as the grizzly bear (Ursos arctos), the barren ground caribou (Rangifer tarandus groenlandicus), the moose (Alces alces andersoni) and the muskox (Ovibos moschatus) are present in great numbers.
The only settlement on Great Bear Lake is the small Dene community of Déline, located near the mouth of the Great Bear River, which flows out of Great Bear Lake into the Mackenzie River.
Déline has a population of about 600, the majority of whom are Sahtuto’ine Dene, the ‘Bear Lake People’. Great Bear Lake and its watershed are the homeland of the Sahtuto’ine and form part of an intact wilderness embodying the foundation of Sahtuto’ine cosmology, history and traditional law, which are transmitted from elders to the younger generation, as well as Déline’s renewable resource economy.
Sahtuto’ine culture is intricately tied to the health of the lake, its watershed and the animals that inhabit it. As such, maintenance of the ecological integrity of Great Bear Lake and its watershed is of primary importance to the people of Déline. The land ‘contains’ the people of Déline; they are part of it, and they define themselves largely by their relationship with it.
Last updated in June 2016Back to top