Kyla Kakfwi Scott: A Jane Glassco Northern Fellow Who is Helping to Build a Sustainable North

The Jane Glassco Northern Fellowship describes itself as a policy and leadership development program which targets young northerners, aged 25 to 35. Their experiences with self-directed and collective sharing of knowledge and skills, with inclusion of traditional knowledge into the research process, produces better articulated and shared research, resulting in ideas and strengthened abilities. The ultimate goals are to help Fellows build a healthier, more self-reliant and sustainable North.

One of those Fellows who is profiled in this ongoing series, is Kyla Kakfwi Scott (K’asho Got’ine). She has a stunning list of accomplishments and currently serves as Senior Advisor, Anti-Poverty, with the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT), where she holds joint responsibility for the advancement of the Territorial Anti-Poverty Action Plan and the development of the NWT On the Land Collaborative Fund. She is also pursuing a Masters degree, is a member of the selection committee for the Arctic Inspiration Prize, advises the Small Change Fund, was the founding program manager for Dechinta Bush University, and is a founding member and steering committee member of Dene Nahjo.

Kakfwi Scott spent most of her life in Yellowknife. Her father’s family is from Fort Good Hope, NWT (Denendeh), where she often visited as a child, and her mother was from southwestern Ontario, where Kakfwi Scott attended the University of Western Ontario. “I didn’t appreciate home, where I was from, until I moved away,” she said. “There I realized how important my family, my Dene culture, and the land were to me.”

She has a background in community relations, which she had used when working for the Ekati Diamond Mine, and which she took full advantage of as one of the founders of Dechinta Bush University program. Dechinta courses are taught by Northern leaders with a Northern context, agenda and relevance, in a land-based environment, remote and off the grid.

One day Kakfwi Scott saw a newspaper advertisement for the Jane Glassco Northern Fellowship. “It was like the program had been designed for me,” she says. “I’d started a degree, married, had kids, moved back up north, worked, but felt full of potential I wasn’t able to take advantage of. I felt I had a lot more to offer.”

Receiving the Fellowship allowed her to become deeply involved in an already-designed study for Northern curricula in high schools, and she says it led directly to her public service with the Government of NWT. “I was recruited because Debbie DeLancey, the Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services, read my Fellows’ paper and approached me.”

Her paper, and other aspects of her Fellowship work, dealt with Northern history and knowledge because, although indigenous and northerly recounts of their history were officially part of the curriculum, nothing had been standardized. “It was different in every classroom,” she says. “And the teachers were often not from the North. There were also different funding methods for different schools.”  The Fellowship provided the opportunity to put teachers and subject matter experts together to advise the curriculum. “Now it’s full credit,” she says with a hint of modest pride in her voice. “It was first used in Grade 10, now it’s also in Grade 11 and will be expanding into Grade 12.”

Another big part of her focus is as one of the founders of Dene Nahjo, an organization for  a new generation of community builders who are working to advance social and environmental justice for Northern peoples, fostering emerging indigenous leadership, and promoting living, learning, and celebrating the culture of the land through the guidance of elders.

“The potential and capacity up here is underreported,” she says. “Programs happening in the north are really investing in emerging leaders. It’s driven by the people here—it feels exciting here. And the Fellowship is part of that.”