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Friends, one of the things you have to keep in mind is that in order to find out what you are good at, you have to at the very least try your hand at something, anything.

Over past decade I have worked with the youth in my hometown of Radelie Koe, with varied results.

The latest was a 6×8-foot cancer victims memorial mural, with a life-size image of Jesus emerging from the tomb and the names of all 45 local people who have died of cancer over the years.

One good result of any kind of community project like this one is that it brings people together. I learned quite a lot about our own history, whilst checking for the names of the deceased people, from husband and wife team, George and Florence Barnaby.

Now the mural stands as a lasting sign of our lost relatives. Another teaching moment is that whatever we do, good or bad, will be picked up by the youth.

Just lately an excellent local carver, Bradley McNeely, has been posting pictures of his own six-foot ‘memory pole’ for those close to him who have passed. All of these efforts have their way of taking a life of their own, too.

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There are two northern Dene taking the Indigenous PhD studies at Trent University in Peterborough, Ont. This one school has the longest standing history of these courses anywhere in Canada and the U.S., now coming up on its 50th anniversary.

In my case, although I have an A-average for a PhD, I’ve always had a problem with the academic writing, a form of communications good for theory but not suited at all for passing along information about Indigenous culture.

As a result of the back and forth over the last year the university has decided in my favour, that is to include my art as research.

This is a big step for the academic world and will make it more manageable for future students. To top it off I am just now beginning to draft up my second book. The first, From Bear Rock Mountain: The Life and Times of a Dene Residential School Survivor has done quite well, for a first at-bat.

After a few months there are only a few left at the publishers for sale, with the second edition already in the works. One other sure sign of its success is that it has really taken off with the youth, assigned as required reading for not one but two university courses and for another, in our Aurora College, on poetry!

Starting in on a second book is definitely an easier task, let me tell you. There was a lot of personal pain trying to get all of it out for the first, and now I feel much freer, and with as a subject art and its place in a healing society. 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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