Friends, at this time of being locked indoors, we Dene have a long-standing tradition of storytelling.

Right from a very young age and usually in small groups out on the land, you got used to hearing the very best of yarn-spinners, who all ended up trying to outdo one another.
Having been brought up this way, it also comes in useful, for when you end up studying far from home.

One of the things I’ve been told, writing my first book, From Bear Rock Mountain, The Life and Times of a Dene Residential School Survivor, was from my publisher, Taryn Boyd.

She said: “You know, Antoine, very few people grew up the way you did, right on the land. It reads like an adventure to them, and that’s what they want.”

Too, working towards a doctorate in my Indigenous PhD Studies, you have to pick a local person from your hometown to be on your PhD Committee, an outside advisor, more or less.

An Elder to us is much like that, an expert in all things about life, so I had no problem asking Lucy Jackson, of Radilih Koe, Fort Good Hope.

She agreed and over the years I’ve let her know what I am up to with my studies.
It’s not always serious business, either, friends.

During the summer we usually have these big ole cookouts on the Field, at home. It’s actually supposed to be a baseball field, but people got tired of watching the ball going back and forth, so now it’s all about cooking and eating, in the warmer season.

Things hadn’t started yet in the morning when me and Lucy were sitting in a teepee I helped set up for the weekend event.

There were some children already in there, so we just started telling them stories, one after another.

While doing this we noticed some nice drymeat overhead, on a rack, so we helped ourselves.

We were running out of stories, getting full from the good stuff, and people were showing up for the day.

Before we left, we talked to the young ones of a Dene tradition, that they were supposed to keep certain information to themselves!

We got them to cross their little hearts and seriously swear not to tell a soul who had helped themselves to the drymeat and we left.

We sat at one of the picnic tables and pretty soon the main organizer for the event came along, smiling before entering the teepee, which was set up for her and her crew.

She came right back out, straight to Lucy and me, accusing us of eating up her drymeat.
With so few people around we had to admit our guilt and asked her how she knew.

She said her little ones pointed at us when she asked them, saying, ‘Those two sitting right there ate your drymeat!’

So much for swearing to God not to tell!

She stomped off, back into the teepee. Me and Lucy just looked at each other and burst out laughing, real loud!

Hearing this the lady poked her head back out the doorway of the teepee, saying, ‘an you two, Not a Word!’

The moral of the story? Do not eat and tell!

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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