By Norman Yakeleya, Dene National Chief

As we enter the holiday season and prepare for 2020, it is important to take time to reflect on all we have accomplished as Dene people as we move towards self-determination and unity as one Nation, many heartbeats – one Dene drum.

As I reflect on 2019, I am humbled by the collective strength and the unity we have displayed as a leadership and as Dene people. Over the years, we have seen efforts to divide our people and communities that served one community over another, creating tension and disharmony among ourselves. However, our wealthy history as the Dene Nation was always unified.

Norman Yakeleya, centre, was initiated as national chief of the Dene Nation at the 48th Dene National Assembly in Hay River in late August, 2018. He’s pictured with Bill Erasmus, left, outgoing national chief of the Dene Nation and Francois Paulette, right, elder from Smith’s Landing First Nation.
NNSL file photo

We continue a strong tradition of collective unity. Earlier this month, the Dene Leadership gathered in Akaitcho territory. Bringing together leadership, we shared ways to work together to advance our priorities that will improve quality of life across the North. These meetings provide us with the opportunity to talk with each other and see our collective strength. Many heartbeats, one Dene drum will unite the path forward. As Dene National Chief, I will carry this strength with me as we work with governments to find solutions that respect our treaties, traditions and values.

The strength of the Dene

The strength of the Dene speaks to our historic bonds of working together to overcome challenges. Bringing one voice to the national and territorial tables will bring change to issues like housing, education and language preservation and set the path for future generations. Our Dene unity will give us courage and strength when faced with obstacles in moving our path to self-determination.

For Dene communities, this includes housing, changes to the land, justice and education, all of which must include our perspectives.

In November, myself and members of Dene Leadership from across the country travelled to Whitehorse where we participated in the Northern Nations Summit with leadership from the Yukon First Nations working together.

Recognizing our collective strength and joint priorities, we are now working to develop a Statement of Cooperation that will solidify a commitment of working together. This will support Nations to advance a relationship with the Crown and better outcomes for all Dene communities and citizens in Denendeh.

As long as the sun rises, and the river flows – we as a people will be united as Dene. We will continue to maintain momentum and build on the strength of our knowledge keepers, teachings and each other. As we near the Christmas season, be kind to one another. Let kindness unite us as people and give us courage to face new challenges. Let the values of the Dene serve as a reminder of our unity as Dene people and remember that our youth deserve our support more than ever today. I would like to wish all across the North a safe Christmas season and good health in 2020.

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