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2006 Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award

Finalist: Harold Gatensby

Harold Gatensby
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Harold Gatensby (Dahka T'lingit) is an honored 2006 Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award finalist for his advocacy efforts to protect the Yukon River Watershed and his work within the justice system for better treatment of Native people. Gatensby is one of the co-founders of the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council (YRITWC) and currently serves on its Executive Committee. He has also worked as a community-based justice training facilitator. Gatensby resides in Carcross, Yukon Territory, Canada.

As a co-founder of the YRITWC, Gatensby advocates for the clean-up of the Yukon River and its tributaries, one of the largest watersheds in North America. The coalition of indigenous governments of the YRITWC are indigenous citizens dependent on the environmental integrity of the Yukon River for survival; they unite on issues related to the environmental and cultural integrity of the entire watershed. Gatensby traveled to South Africa to represent the YRITWC at the 2002 United Nations Earth Summit.

Gatensby has been a keynote speaker at numerous events including the Alaska Federation of Natives annual meeting. He served as the Yukon Territory representative on the Advisory Board to the Aboriginal Justice Learning Network in Ottawa, a Canadian federal government-appointed board. He was instrumental in the creation of the Southern Lake Justice Committee in the early 1990s and served on the Committee in various capacities.

In 1995, Gatensby founded Nares Mountain Wilderness Camp, which he still owns and runs today. At the retreat center, Gatensby facilitates restorative justice and environmental trainings for individuals, community groups, and professionals from around North America. Gatensby's application of community-based justice (also known as circle sentencing) and indigenous T'ingit cultural traditions helps address the poverty, pain, violence and cycle of loss in his community as a result of residential schools and related institutions that were imposed by the Canadian government on his people.

Gatensby's personal history informs his community justice work. Memories of boarding schools for many First Nation generations recall pain and mental suffering. Youth incarceration is one symptom of this history. Gatensby is one face among the statistics. Spending many years of his youth in the prison systems, Gatensby made a conscious decision to turn his life around and help other people. He is now a respected House Leader of the Kookhittaan clan of the Dakha T'lingit Nation and on the front lines of community and environmental stewardship. Still, Gatensby regularly returns to correctional facilities to help inmates. He works tirelessly within the justice system for better treatment and cultural respect for Native people, cultural mediation and peace keeping.

In 2000, Gatensby received a Probation 2000 (three-day international conference) Individual Merit Award for his community justice work, presented by Her Royal Highness Princess Anne of the United Kingdom. This Award brings recognition to individuals who have developed innovative approaches to reducing crime in their communities. In 2004, Gatensby and his wife received the Cultural Volunteers of the Year Award from Carcross Community School. He is the proud parent of thirteen children.


2006 Honorees


Harold Gatensby

Ilarion (Larry) Merculieff

Tawna Sanchez

Chief Judith Sayers


Learn More

About Harold Gatensby:

Native American Tribes Vow to Clean Up Yukon River National Geographic News, August 3, 2004

BisonRidge Ranch Hosts Restorative Justice Four Day Facilitator Training

The Peacemaking Circle, Boston Retreat Center

YRITWC Newsletter Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council (416kb pdf)


Astrid Scholz
tel: 503.467.0758
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Jason Pretty Boy
Indigenous Resilience Fellow
tel: 503.467.0803


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