Friends, after a great summer in my hometown of Radilih Koe, Fort Good Hope, it’s good to be back to school, now just beginning my fourth year of Indigenous PhD studies.

One of the main events in the North, of course, was the recent election of Norman Yakeleya, to head up the Dene Nation and as Regional Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

When things like this happen it always reminds me of my late cousin, Alfred Masuzumi, describing the Mountain Dene as people of vision and leadership. At the time he stated that it was no surprise someone like Stephen Kakfwi was premier of the NWT.

I was also struck by a statement that Kakfwi, made to the CBC, of his impressions of the Dene Nation. His take on important matters are always quite succinct, to be given their proper accord.

He said the Dene Nation of today should be more regarded as a secretariat, a go-between, Dene to Dene and government, more or less and that whatever political power it once had has been largely spent and now faded.

Whether you agree with something or not, friends, it’s always a good idea to take the opposite view seriously.

In this case my own is that we as Dene have always been long on words and short on action.

Right from the start we have been talking about treaties and our inherent rights. Some, like the famous Paulette Case, proved our claim to Aboriginal Rights, going all the way back to the Royal Proclamation of 1763.

These were the kinds of actions we as the Dene Nation were known for. We certainly left our mark, no doubt.

Today, though, I for one assume if we still have that ability we want to show the world, we would have gotten our rights back, for health and education a long time ago.

So, when I hear the new leader mention that “we will change the world”, we also have to think in terms of what happened right after the election itself. They had a problem with a simple required quorum – enough people left over after the election at the assembly to vote.

The one good thing, though, is that I got a call several weeks ago from Charlene Alexander and Lynne Feasey, organizers for the Adaka Cultural Festival in the Yukon.

They wanted to know of my quarter-century plus travels in search of our Dene roots, to Arizona and even Siberian Russia.

The idea is to follow up on some plans that our new leader, Norman Yakeleya has, to retrace our cultural steps to a time when we truly were of the land.

It is certainly true that it is hard to put political ideals to action, but at least we still have that good ole Dene spirit.

Mahsi, thank you.

Antoine Mountain

Antoine Mountain is a Dene artist and writer originally from Radilih Koe/Fort Good Hope. He can be reached at

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