Shining Lights: Energy Literacy and Language in the Northwest Territories

In an effort to support Indigenous communities in their effort to use diesel supplied energy more efficiently, the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources (CIER) created the Shining Lights Energy Literacy and Language in the Northwest Territories project. This project was made possible with funding from Natural Resources Canada (NRCAN) Clean Energy for Rural and Remote Communities Deployment Program Capacity Building Stream. CIER’s Shining Lights Energy Literacy and Language in the Northwest Territories project was designed to support Indigenous communities in their effort to use diesel supplied energy more efficiently through capacity building activities related to the development and delivery of knowledge and skills.

Specifically, the project focused on increasing the energy literacy of Indigenous women and youth from across the NWT. Increased energy literacy is critical for diesel-dependent Indigenous communities in NWT to reduce their long-term reliance on diesel. Energy literacy of community members, in particular for Indigenous women and youth, encourages the best possible individual or household level energy choices, and builds their leadership capacity to participate in long-term community wide energy planning and decision-making. This project focused on increasing foundational knowledge of energy and energy use and created indigenous language translations of key energy terminology.

Click the Report Cover below to access the Shining Lights Final Project Report

Click the photo below to access the Shining Lights Presentation

Three regional community workshops were held that reached 56 Indigenous women and youth from 22 different NWT communities. The focus of the training was energy basics, energy sources, the impact of energy production and use, and energy decision-making. These workshops focused on identifying actions that are controllable – and thus changeable – at the personal and household level. Energy literacy of Indigenous women and youth increases the likelihood that community members will make the best possible individual or household level energy choices and builds leadership capacity so they can engage knowledgeably in the creation and/or implementation of community energy planning. ​​

The participants of the regional sessions committed to taking energy conservation actions when they returned home. Through these actions, community members and families of the participants learned about energy literacy from the participants and the participants themselves made energy conservation changes in their homes. For example, many of the participants changed their lightbulbs to LED bulbs.


To initiate the project, CIER, in partnership with Pembina Institute held an introductory meeting to draft the Shining Lights curriculum. Shining Lights trainers were then recruited (three from CIER and three from the NWT) and trained through a Shining Lights train-the-trainer workshop in Winnipeg, MB.

The Shining Lights curriculum went through further drafting during a collaborative curriculum design session with the Shining Lights trainers and Arctic Energy Alliance. It was then finalized by Pembina Institute and executed during the regional community workshops.

The curriculum features seven chapters which include:

  • History of Energy: in the context of remote NWT communities;
  • Energy Basics: an overview of what energy is and does, forms of energy, types of energy (renewable vs. non-renewable), energy units, and relating these concepts to oil production and use;
  • Energy Technologies: exploring the differences between electricity and heating, production, conversion efficiencies, the energy pyramid (above), and home energy use in the NWT and the rest of Canada;
  • Energy in Canadian Remote Communities: learning about other fuel-dependent communities across Canada;
  • Energy in the Northwest Territories: a guide to understanding community energy profiles – different energy sources and fuels, consumption, where energy is used in their communities, the cost of energy and the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from burning these fuels;
  • Energy Conservation and Efficiency: understanding the home as a ‘system’, energy monitoring, energy conservation and efficiency measures; and,
  • Energy Analysis, Planning, and Action: understanding our energy bills and how to prioritize conservation and efficiency measures.

Shining Lights Curriculum – Available for download by clicking on the photos below

Chapter One – Historical Context

​Chapter Two – Energy Basics

Chapter Three – Energy Technologies 

Chapter Four – Energy in Canadian Technologies  Basics

Chapter Five – Energy in NWT Remote Communities

Chapter Six – Energy Conservation and Efficiency

Chapter Five – Energy in NWT Remote Communities


During the workshops, participants were asked to take key energy terms and concepts they had learned and use them to create draft posters. The energy terms were translated during and after the workshops into Inuvialuktun (Inuvialuktun), Dinjii Zhu’ Ginjik (Gwich’in), Sahtúot’ı̨nę Yatı̨́ (North Slavey), Dene Zhatıé (South Slavey), Tłı̨chǫ (Tłı̨chǫ Yatıì), Dëne Sųłıné Yatıé (Chipewyan), and the Lutselk’e dialect of Dëne Sųłıné Yatıé. 

These posters have been distributed across the Northwest Territories, and are now available free through clicking on the photos below. Please contact CIER if you would like to request a higher resolution poster.  

Inuvialuktun (Inuvialuktun), Dinjii Zhu’ Ginjik (Gwich’in), Sahtúot’ı̨nę Yatı̨́ (North Slavey) Posters

Tłı̨chǫ (Tłı̨chǫ Yatıì) Poster

Dëne Sųłıné Yatıé (Chipewyan) Poster

Dene Zhatıé (South Slavey) Poster

Shining Lights Workshop Resources

Would you like to share the Shining Lights curriculum in your community? If so, you may find it helpful to use some of the workshop resources we developed for our workshops. To download our resources, click on the photos below.

Energy Pyramid

Remote Communities in Canada Map

Impacts of Diesel Mind-Map