Friends, whenever there is another Indigenous piece of writing we are actually finding the missing pieces of our Dene culture.
These were scattered to the four winds by changes like residential schools.
Our Elders are passing away before we are prepared for them to do so.
In the case of this new book, Our Whole Gwich’in Way of Life has Changed, we are lucky enough to be able to share stories of the 23 old timers involved.
Like a few of our present company I was brought up by my grandparents.
This gives you a very rare chance to look directly into the past, a history very much alive with their generation. My grandmother was born before the end of the Indian Wars, 1890, so this gives you an idea of what we are missing out on today.
In a time of a global pandemic, internet and cell phones we are as far removed from our real Dene selves as a hawk is from the moon.
We should be grateful for the likes of Lesley McCartney and our Alestine Andre, for putting such a grand volume of detailed information together.
Her father, the late Hyacinthe Andre was talking to me about some people he knew from upriver, to my home of Radelie Koe, Fort Good Hope.
He couldn’t say enough about the late Jim Pierrot, calling him Selaw Good News, because all Chief Andre ever heard from Tsiigehtchic was the good that his friend Jim was doing.
In the end we have to work with what we have. In the case of our Elders we need to find out what they know and make sure it’s passed along to the Youth.
Probably the best thing said to me lately was last summer, just as we were finishing up with my Indigenous PhD studies.
Uncle Thomas Manuel came right up to me and with hands on my shoulders, old-style, told me that I am fulfilling the prophecies of our Etseo Ayha.
This man from Deline had the gift of being able to See into the future. Among many other revelations he foresaw the use of uranium taken out of Dene lands to drop the bombs on Japan which ended the Second World War.
We Dene have a unique spot in modern history, in that the original, vital and deadly mix for the weapons which ended the Second World War came from our country.
Too, the final push to save democracy would not have been possible without the Navajo Code Talkers. So we figured at both ends of that moment in these earth-shattering events.
This is just to give you an idea of how important it is for you to go and spend time with your Elders. More than any TV, computer or cell phone they can tell you who you really are.
Mahsi, thank you.