YKDFN youth brings Giant Mine’s toxic legacy to TikTok

Morgan Tsetta took it upon herself to share the on-going development between the federal government and YKDFN on Giant Mine's toxic legacy. (Photo courtesy of Morgan Tsetta)

Morgan Tsetta, a 26-year-old Yellowknives Dene First Nations (YKDFN) member has taken the conversation between the federal government and Giant Mine to TikTok.

Tsetta was successful in helping YKDFN get over 32,000 signatures in support of the remediation process, earlier this month. She stresses every single one of those signatures “is owed an appropriate acknowledgement from the federal government.”

Originally, YKDFN was only aiming for 500 signatures.

“Canadians are aware, more than ever before, on the need for reconciliation through this petition,” says Chief Ernest Betsina, for Ndilǫ.

Tsetta’s TikTok journey started as innocently as everybody else’s – with a few cat videos. But after being exposed to the appeal and power of Indigenous TikTok, Tsetta was inspired.

She says this side of TikTok was so welcoming she started opening up about her own experiences in her community.

“I feel like not many people know about [this issue] across Canada and even in Yellowknife,” she says.

Betsina says he’s overwhelmed by the attention and support the petition has received.

“Her message has been an important way for us, for our story to reach new audiences across the country, particularly the young people,” says Chief Betsina.

Toxic legacy

Giant Mine’s legacy goes back to the early 1940s – producing one of the richest and longest-running gold mines in Canadian history.

It is also responsible for decades-long abuse and mistreatment of Dene land; polluting the air and water with arsenic, among other things.

“Having grown up here, it’s incredibly personal,” Tsetta says.

Tsetta was only 10-years old when she started hearing stories about Giant Mine.

She explains a time when her community would be able to drink freely from Yellowknife Bay, something many residents won’t do today due to the risk of potential arsenic poisoning.

Even though the territorial government has identified the waters as safe, other areas are still recognized to have high levels of arsenic. 

Roughly 80 years have gone by since Giant Mine began in Yellowknife and residents are wary of the potential dangers that still exist.

Tsetta says she’s been “compelled” to share this message since the demonstration at Giant Mine late last year, where YKDFN demanded an apology and compensation from the federal government.

“It’s incredibly difficult, trying to seem articulated, educated and to be calm,” she says, “to not let my emotions get the best of me.”

In the event that something does go wrong during the remediation process “our nation will be the first impacted.”

Tsetta is committed to updating her followers on this message. Her TikTok handle is @porterfieldlol.

YKDFN has asked the federal government for fair compensation, an apology and an opportunity to be apart of the remediation process, through oversight and labour.

Recently, YKDFN leaders have said positive conversations are ongoing with the federal government surrounding Giant Mine.

” I’m quite happy where we’re at,” says Michael McLeod, MP for the NWT. “I’m sure other people that have been at it longer than I have are wanting to see it move faster, but it’s moving.”

The petition is now closed and is expected to hit the floor at the House of Commons by the end of the month.

About the Author

Mariah Caruso
Mariah Caruso is a digital journalist, originally from Toronto, Canada. She graduated from the University of Toronto with a Hons. Bachelor of Arts and completed her Journalism post-grad at Sheridan College. She has an insatiable appetite for life, storytelling, connecting to the people, and getting to the heart of the issue. Mariah is excited to begin her journey and career in Yellowknife, NWT, and get involved with the community. If you have a story idea, feel free to send her an email at mariah.caruso@cklbradio.com