Friends, seeing Elders like Fred Carmichael getting the kind of recognition they deserve says a lot about us as Northerners.

For anyone who spends any time in the Delta, his is a familiar and inviting face. One thing about people from his generation, at least twice removed in age from most of us, is that even though they may disagree with you strongly the important thing is you are coming up just to shake their hand and say ‘hi.’

For the number of things he has done so well in his lifetime, anyone else his age in the south would be going around with their noses up in the air, waiting on the cameras and microphones to show on up.

Just take a quick look at what this Inuvik resident has already been noted for: an Order of Canada, two, count ’em, two medals from Queen Elizabeth II of England herself and an honorary Doctorate of Law degree from the University of Saskatchewan! And in October he was inducted into the Order of the Northwest Territories.

This is obviously a person who has done something with his life.

Carmichael also takes the time to talk of life in the past and how it was built on being independent, knowing all of the skills you needed just to live on the land and to raise a family.

Indeed, sharing was a real way of living at one time in the North and still is, to a greater extent.

When Fred mentions residential schools I can’t help but recall a true story my dad, Charlie Barnaby, tells of meeting Ole Fred in the boxing ring, when they were at separate residential schools in Aklavik. Dad says after he won the match he also found out they were fighting over a movie projector, which the RC-side got!

With this latest award, the Order of the NWT, Carmichael recalls his father, Frank Sr, who was the first Indigenous person elected to office in Canada in 1951 and held a commercial flying license besides. As a citizen of the North this man also talks about the industry we need badly, just for the youth to have a future. Beginning with a Mackenzie Valley Highway to open up this part of the country, he sees industry as ways for us to join the rest of the world.

For the time being, though, I am glad to be in the company of people who would take the time to recognize ones like our Elder, Fred Carmichael. 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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