Indigenous Relations

Committed to Working with our Indigenous Partners

Distant Early Warning Station laser scanning Sturt Point Nunavut

Capacity Building

Challenger is proud of the business relationships we have established with Indigenous communities, businesses and governments. We strive to contribute to the many communities in which we work. Not only by providing employment and skills development, but also participating in social and cultural activities.

Building on Challenger’s successful experience operating North of 60 for nearly 35 years, we have built unique partnerships with local Indigenous groups in Northern Canada, including the incorporation of Inukshuk Geomatics Inc. & Sahtu Geomatics Ltd. and Joint Venture business relationships with Chief Isaac Group of Companies & Dene Nezziddi Development Corporation.

The objective of our formal relationships is to:

  • Facilitate the development of resources and capacity related to geomatics;
  • Enable full participation in geomatics activities in their territories;
  • Demonstrate a long-term commitment to sustainable development;
  • Develop and employ Indigenous and Northern Peoples; and
  • Deliver innovative and high-quality geomatics services at competitive rates.

Inukshuk and Sahtu Geomatics

Inukshuk Geomatics Inc. (Inukshuk) is jointly owned by the Inuvialuit Development Corporation and Challenger Geomatics Ltd. Incorporated in 2000, Inukshuk services the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, including Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk.

Inukshuk’s projects have included survey and geomatics support for numerous oil and gas exploration programs in the Beaufort Sea and local area, diverse environmental reclamation efforts, and the construction of the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway, which opened in the fall of 2017.

This highway project included the largest legal land survey done on Canada Lands in 2017, and resulted in Inukshuk receiving the Association of Canada Lands Surveyors’ David Thompson Award for Challenging Cadastral Survey Project in 2018.

Sahtu Geomatics Ltd. (Sahtu) is jointly owned by the Mackay Range Development Corporation and Challenger Geomatics Ltd. The Mackay Range Development Corporation (MRDC) is the business arm of the Tulita Land Corporation, which represents the Sahtu Dene and Metis of Tulita.

Sahtu is permitted by the Association of Canada Land Surveyors and was incorporated in 2012. The company services the Sahtu Settlement Area, including Norman Wells and Tulita.

Sahtu’s projects have included survey and geomatics support for numerous oil and gas exploration programs in the Mackenzie Valley and surrounding area, diverse environmental reclamation efforts and many local transportation and infrastructure construction projects.

Dawson City historic shop front

Chief Isaac Joint Venture

In November 2017, during the Yukon Geoscience Conference in Whitehorse, we announced the signing of a joint venture between Challenger Geomatics Ltd. and Chief Isaac Inc. The partnership positions both Chief Isaac and Challenger as the surveyor of choice for current and upcoming mining and infrastructure projects within the Yukon’s White Gold district.

The Chief Isaac Group of Companies is an indigenous-owned diversified services company that operates the business interests of and creates sustainable wealth for the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in (translated as ‘people of the river’), a self-governing Yukon First Nation located in Dawson City. The Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in has a citizenship of roughly 1,100, and includes descendants of the Hän-speaking people, who have lived along the Yukon River for millennia.

Welcome to Ross River sign

Dene Nezziddi Partnership

In April 2018, Challenger signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Dena Nezziddi Corporation, the economic development arm of the Ross River Dena Council (RRDC), which is a Kaska Nation in Ross River, Yukon. Challenger and Dena Nezziddi will work toward generating income for Dena Nezziddi and job opportunities for Ross River Citizens. Mining exploration, development, production and reclamation projects are expected to create significant mutually beneficial opportunities within the Kaska Traditional Territory.

At the time, John Etzel, then CEO of Dena Nezziddi Corporation, said about the new partnership: “We recognize that Challenger has a long-term presence in the Yukon. Both of our companies are interested in growing business in Kaska Traditional Territory and throughout the North. Dena Nezziddi is pleased that Challenger reached out to us, and we are very optimistic about this agreement and about development in the Ross River area in the coming years.”

Inuvik Tuktoyaktuk Highway Project


Challenger Geomatics has developed formal and informal relationships in the Inuvialuit, Gwich’in, Sahtu, Deh Cho and Tlicho communities of the Northwest Territories, and with Inuit communities in Nunavut.

In the Yukon Territory, Challenger Geomatics has successfully completed contract Land Claim surveys and/or direct projects with most Yukon First Nations:

  • Carcross/Tagish
  • Champagne and Aishihik
  • Nacho Nyak Dun
  • Little Salmon/Carmacks
  • Kluane
  • Kwanlin Dun
  • Selkirk
  • Ta’an Kwach’an Council
  • Teslin Tlingit Council
  • Tr’ondek Hwech’in
  • Vuntut Gwitchin

Challenger has also established positive relationships with a number of First Nations communities throughout Alberta and northeast British Columbia.

We have completed surveys for 13 land claim agreements across Canada. We intend to build on those successes, and continue to strengthen those connections with our indigenous partners.

Class Photo - Survey training at Fort Simpson


Challenger Geomatics Ltd. has demonstrated our commitment to training an Indigenous and Northern workforce in the surveying field through a number of training initiatives that have benefited Indigenous communities eventually being recognized in 2012 by the Association of Canada Lands Surveyors with the David Thompson Award.

The following is a list of some of the communities and projects in which Challenger has delivered survey and geomatics-related training courses:

  • Aurora College and Aboriginal Futures
  • Deh Cho Region, Fort Simpson
  • Deline, Sahtu Settlement Area
  • Ekati Diamond Mine, Diavik Diamond Mines Inc., and DeBeers’ Snap Lake Diamond Project
  • Gwich’in Settlement Area, Fort McPherson & Mackenzie Gas Project
  • Inuvialuit Settlement Region, Inuvik & Mackenzie Gas Project
  • Kivalliq Region, Rankin Inlet
  • Ross River Dena Council
  • Sahtu Settlement Area, Norman Wells & Tulita District
  • Yukon College, Whitehorse
Survey training on a total station at Norman Wells

Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business

Challenger is a proud member of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB), and we are engaged in their Progressive Aboriginal Relations Program. The council’s mission is to build bridges between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples, businesses, and communities through diverse programming, providing tools, training, network building, major business awards, and national events. CCAB positions Aboriginal business at the focal point for strengthening Aboriginal communities, promoting progressive and prosperous relationships, and growing a new economy based on mutual respect and shared prosperity.

Canadian Council for aboriginal business logo

Joe Iles profile picture

Indigenous Relations Lead

In 2017, Challenger was proud to create a new Indigenous Relations Lead role within our company to build on our successful history of business partnerships and project work with Indigenous Peoples and on their lands.

Appointed as our inaugural Indigenous Relations Lead is Joe Iles, CLS, a Professional Land Surveyor and long-time Northerner. Joe is an active leader where the survey profession coincides with Indigenous community and economic development activities and is currently Chair of the Indigenous Relations Steering Committee for the Association of Canada Lands Surveyors (ACLS).

A natural rapport-builder, Joe has long-standing relationships with Indigenous Peoples and has demonstrated collaboration and commitment while embracing the opportunity to engage non-politically on many levels. Known for his respect of tradition, culture and diversity, Joe continues to build on his 30 years of experience and knowledge gained from working with Indigenous Peoples on a variety of projects.

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