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Local legend dies at 102

Early aboriginal rights activist Michel Sikyea dead

Erin Fletcher
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Jan 10/03) - He lived 102 years on this Earth but his legacy will last longer than that.

Yellowknife Dene elder Michel Sikyea died Dec. 21 in hospital in Grand Prairie, Alta.

NNSL Photo

A 70-year-old Michel Sikyea in 1970 at the Yellowknife River bridge demonstrating his fish filleting skills. - photo courtesy of Bill Braden

Sikyea was a respected elder, known for his pioneering fight for aboriginal rights.

Born June 5, 1901, to Sekiye and Noemie Tsatsittchele he was orphaned when he was three.

He grew up in the Fort Resolution mission until he was 18 before marrying Rose Benaya (Wennaya) in 1923.

Sikyea spent most of his life living traditionally by trapping, hunting and fishing at Moose Bay, southeast of Yellowknife.

He worked part-time at Con Mine for 16 years, while also maintaining his traditional lifestyle.

He also worked seven years at Giant Mine.

He moved to Ndilo in 1963 where he and his wife remained until 1995 when they moved to Aven Manor.

In Ndilo, Sikyea spent many decades as a councillor and council advisor.

He was also a signatory to Treaty 11 and taught others about the treaty.

"He's just as old as the treaty," said Yellowknife Dene Chief Richard Edjericon.

The million dollar duck hunter

But perhaps Sikyea is best known for the million dollar duck.

In the late 1960s Sikyea shot a female mallard out of season.

He was caught and taken to court. He was fined $1 while the government had to foot the bill for $1 million in legal proceedings.

"He fought for aboriginal and treaty rights before it was even recognized, before the present organizations existed," said Yellowknife Dene Chief Darrell Beaulieu.

To honour Sikyea's contributions to Ndilo, the community named the road leading into Ndilo's Sikyea Road and an apartment building also proudly carries his name.

"He was a well-respected elder from our community.

"He was the oldest member from our membership and he is going to be missed," said Edjericon, adding Sikyea was a strong community leader whose legacy continues today.

"He was a good man," said Beaulieu. "He lived a long life, he lived a good life."

"I think he's had a good, positive impact on people. I think he's left a lot of information with a lot of people here."

Sikyea, the father of 12, is survived by his wife, (Rose), three sons, (Edward, Albert and Tim), one daughter (Helen) and many grandchildren.