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Coping with Climate Change in the Dehcho

“We need solar, especially with the impacts of climate change, and we need a cleaner environment,” says Catherine Sanguez.

Wildfire MapWith that in mind Catherine found herself enrolled in Iron & Earth’s recent solar training program in Fort Simpson, NT.

“Look at us now, with all the wildfires going on and water levels going down, we can see climate changes big time.”

Her small community in nearby Trout River has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to climate change. Young people are regularly taken out on the land by their teachers to see the eroding shorelines of the McKenzie River and the disappearing permafrost. “Here in the north, we don’t need anyone to tell us climate change is serious, we can see it every day. The snowpack used to be rock hard when we ran on it as kids, now when we do get snow, it’s softer and melts sooner,” Catherine  says. 

Now approaching 70, Catherine recalls being warned as a child by her father about the changing climate. “Dad was a trapper and fisher and he used to tell my brothers to be careful to check ice and snow conditions while trapping and fishing since it was clearly changing, and even the animals’ behaviour was changing,” she says. 

The science backs her up. The NorthWest Territories is warming about four times the global rate, with increasing permafrost thaw and eroding shorelines, changing ice conditions and wildlife and fish species moving north. Home to the Dehcho First Nation, who are particularly affected by climate change, the solar power training program that Catherine took helps Indigenous and rural communities with climate-friendly energy projects.

“It pisses me off,” says Catherine, referring to climate change. “I have a 16 month-old grandson. Who knows what he’ll be facing when he grows up. Considering the way things are going now, it could soon be too late for us to do anything about it. Dad used to say, there’s minerals and gas constantly being taken out of the earth, and nothing returned to it. He said that if we were able to mine the earth’s core, we’d probably do that too.” 

Recently retired, Catherine helped her husband with his financial consulting business for many decades. Her youngest daughter heard about Iron & Earth’s solar training program in Fort Simpson and Hay River, NT. and signed them both up to participate. One of the main reason she took the training was her belief that we all need to convert to renewable energy like solar, since it’s a clean source of energy. An additional factor was that the gasoline needed to run the generator at their house was expensive and a hassle to bring over to her house all the time. 

Solar panels on cabin

She was already impressed with the solar panels her brother had installed at his cabin years earlier, and that he could run all his appliances on the power they generated without any problem.  “My brother always said it worked like a charm, so we decided to try it. Now, we buy less gas, forget about the noise the generator used to make, and the kids can watch movies on the tv at night,” she says. 

“The Iron & Earth program was awesome, it was very practical and useful,” continues Catherine. “The instructors gave very detailed instructions and showed us how it all worked through demonstrations. We learned where best to install the solar panels, how to operate and maintain the system and where to remove trees that could block the panels’ exposure to the sun. I would definitely recommend it.”

Iron & Earth’s Renewable Skills Initiative offers both a ten-day solar power training and a ten-day wind power training program, designed to offer hands-on training in installation and maintenance. All programs are specialized for delivery in rural and Indigenous communities and are fully funded by Iron & Earth and its partners. 

For more information about Iron & Earth’s training opportunities contact us at [email protected] or 778-771-0852 and if you’re ready to make the transition to a renewable energy job visit our Climate Career Portal.



Iron & Earth’s training programs are funded in part by the Government of Canada's Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program.

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Iron & Earth is committed to partnering with Indigenous workers to empower their communities to become self-sufficient in training programs, clean energy transition projects, and employment opportunities to combat environmental racism. It falls to all of us to continue the work of healing and reconciliation in our communities and our organizations. Our relationship with the land and the people who live here shapes who we are. It is in the spirit of reconciliation and honouring the past that we recognize treaties and agreements wherever they are and wherever we work.

We also acknowledge all peoples who live, work, and play on this land, and who honour and celebrate this territory.
As individuals and teams we may make mistakes along the way, but we are dedicated to growth, openness, compassion, and forgiveness. These principles in our work are essential to building successful and healthy relationships with individuals, communities, organizations, and governments.

We look forward to building a path to lead us to a better relationship with Indigenous nations and the environment around us based on peace, friendship, and respect.