Governance Committee

Ni Hadi Xa’s authority rests with the Governance Committee, which is the central decision making body. The Governance Committee is composed of one nominee from each of the signatories:

  • Deninu Kué First Nation
  • Lutsél K’e Dene First Nation
  • North Slave Métis Alliance
  • Northwest Territories Métis Nation
  • Tłı̨chǫ Government
  • De Beers Canada

The Nominee is expected to have experience and be involved in lands and environment matters, as well as regulatory matters. To date, this has been accomplished though appointments of staff (principally) or members that are heavily involved with their local Lands and Environment department. This ensures that the respective nations are best able to benefit from the collaborative efforts, with staff able to bring matters directly to their leaderships.

Current Committee

TOM UNKA – NWT Métis Nation

Tom was born at Little Buffalo River, a traditional fishing village on Great Slave Lake. Though he’s traveled elsewhere, this area is always where he has returned – whether is harvesting timber or working on the water, being on the land around Fort Resolution is important to him.

Tom has worked in the north for 40 years, and is currently the mining advisor for the NWT Métis Nation. Prior to that he’d spent a decade working at Ekati, from the initial baseline sampling through to operations. This is just the tip of an iceberg – there is a long history of experience and education as well as the stories and knowledge of his people and family – including being the chairperson of the first community council in Fort Resolution.

These days Tom still spends a lot of time on the land. Whether its cutting wood, hunting, or harvesting mushrooms, he’s always active.

LAUREN KING – Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation

Lauren grew up in Port Credit, Ontario where the Credit River drains into Lake Ontario. My deep respect for the environment began as a child along the canoe routes of Ontario, and has evolved through my work as a canoe guide and in academia.

I am currently a part-time PhD candidate in the Department of Environment and Resource Studies at the University of Waterloo. My research and teaching interests include protected areas planning and management, co-governance, and Indigenous-led conservation. It is my research that brought me to the Northwest Territories and the community of Lutsel K’e that made me and my finance decide to move from Toronto. In addition to my PhD, I am also the full-time Wildlife, Lands and Environment Manager for the Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation. As part of my role, I have the privilege of being a Ni Hadi Xa Governance Committee member.

In my spare time I enjoy canoeing, skiing, hiking and volleyball as well as learning how to sew from the talented women in Lutsel K’e and getting out on the land with friends.

NICOLE GOODMAN – North Slave Metis Alliance

Nicole works with the North Slave Metis Alliance as Lands, Environment and Giant Mine Coordinator, using her background in environmental science and monitoring to carry out environmental programming and advocate for effective protection of lands and traditional resources through the regulatory system.

Nicole has worked as an environmental technician for mining companies in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut and in regulatory consulting, as well as with federal and provincial government agencies in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. Nicole lives in Yellowknife, where she canoes, skis, and rock-climbs.

SARAH MCLEAN – De Beers Canada

Sarah was born in Saskatchewan, raised in B.C, and lived in Alberta for many years prior to moving to Yellowknife in 2012. Sarah holds a master of science in wildlife biology and a bachelor of science in biology. She has worked in ecological research and monitoring for federal and provincial agencies, in consulting for the oil and gas sector, and in fish and wildlife management for the Alberta government. Sarah currently works for De Beers as the regulatory specialist.

MICHAEL BIRLEA – Tłı̨chǫ Government

Michael Birlea is a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) professional who currently works for Tłı̨chǫ Government as a GIS coordinator. He works with community members and elders on a daily basis to incorporate traditional knowledge into his work for the Lands Protection department.

His work for Tłı̨chǫ Government includes: Designing or preparing graphic representations of GIS data, using GIS hardware or software applications, analyzing GIS data to identify spatial relationships or display of analyses, using maps and graphs, Maintaining or modifying the existing GIS database as well as ongoing data collection.

During his spare time he enjoys skiing and hiking.


Robert was born and raised in Fort Resolution, NWT, and attended residential school in Fort Resolution. Robert has served in local politics since the early 1970s to present, including serving as Chief of Fort Resolution and as a band councillor. Robert has also served as the Mayor and Member of Legislation for Tu Nedhe. Currently, he serves as sub-chief for Deninu Kué First Nation and represents DKFN at the Ni Hadi Xa governance committee. Robert is also father, grandfather, and great great-grandfather.