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Friends, I just want to say a few words here in support of people like Raymond Yakeleya, of Tulita.

He is a renowned Dene filmmaker by trade but concerned enough about the issue of community corruption and lack of transparency to have ran for the Land Corporation there.

This example of ordinary people stepping up to make their statements on behalf of the people is one sure sign of a healthy society. Another is actually a part of my research for the Indigenous PhD Studies, of which I am now in my fifth year.

The Navajo Code Talkers were a small but vital group of high school Dineh students who answered the call to duty after Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Without these marines who were also expert in their language, there may well not have been the democracy we enjoy, so vital were they in the Pacific Theatre. There are these heroic efforts to save humanity.

On the other are the sometimes-lax ways we take our freedoms for granted, even to the point of abuse of power. When you are a part of a small Northern community, you cannot help but see these examples of inter-generational residential school trauma at play.

Leaders who for no fault of their own, never got a chance at a proper upbringing, coupled with a lack of education, now control organizations like our land corporations. In a small place this is often the one go-to place for work or to save our lands. One good thing is that our Yamoga Land Corporation has always stood up strongly in support of our local students.

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Yet, sadly, we had an example of the confusion possible when things get out of hand. There was a one-time deciding vote in Radilih Koe’, this past fall, for whether or not the Ramparts River would be open to industry, Big Oil, mining or gas pipelines. In the end we were very lucky, when enough people remembered their years in the area in question, probably the best moose-hunting country in the North, the Tuyeta.

Because a good majority of our vote is that of the Youth, many of them simply wanted their chance in future to enjoy an industry-free home to look forward to. Too, I would like to congratulate another member of our community, Shannon Smallwood, who now sits on the NWT Supreme Court, no less. No doubt many of our youth now feel a possible way for them to speak up for us.

My point is that with the chance for a different future we need more ordinary people like Raymond Yakeleya to shine the light on what we need to pay attention to. In our case we also have the right to a decent climate.

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 www.mountainarts.com.

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