For generations, the Whatì people have lived in one of the most beautiful places on Earth, a place where the Northern Lights dance over pristine lakes teeming with large trout and pike.
It’s a sheltered community of about 580 people, a place where alcohol and drugs are forbidden. There is no hospital, no restaurant, no movie theater and only one small community store. Unless they take an expensive airplane ride, residents have access to modern amenities for about one month out of the year via an ice road.
Travel is often dangerous. For this reason, the Tłı̨chǫ government has been working with the Government of the Northwest Territories for many years to get the road built. It’s also personal for Whatì Chief Alfonz Nitsiza, whose father began talking about the need for a road after surviving two plane crashes.
Chief Nitsiza said his father wanted more for his people and community. He wanted them to have access to better education, food and health care.
“It is a great day for Whatì and the Tłı̨chǫ region,” said Chief Nitsiza on the day of the groundbreaking. “Our elders have talked about the need for an all-season road to the community of Whatì for many, many years. We now see this becoming a reality.”
Progress does not come without a price. The elders worry about opening the community to the outside world and the problems inherent with that.
There is no doubt that the Northern Lights (on the bucket list for millions of people), the beautiful waterfalls and fantastic fishing will draw tourists.
The advantages to the community, however, far outweigh any challenges that may arise. The road gives people safe access to essential services on a year-round basis, a dream come true for many.