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Friends, one of things I was getting at in my last column, of paying attention to our Elders, is that they have a way to look into you.

Over the years one of these ones from a former generation was the late Joe Marten, of the Yellowknives Dene.

We spent a good deal of time together in that Tu Nedhe area, hunting.

There’s always plenty of time, especially when you stop to make tea, for serious talk.

He once simply said “Seh Leh, my friend, you will go far on behalf of our Dene People and do many wonderful things.”

Way out there on the land you really don’t know what to make of this kind of talk. What’s usually on your mind is finding a good spot to wait for the moose to come out of the bush so you can return with enough meat for everyone.

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But as the saying goes, “the proof is in the bannock.”

Since the time of his passing I ended up going all over the World, as cultural ambassador for the North and Canada.

Now, just lately my school, Trent University has decided to start up a brand-new program of PhD Studies based on my research! And I get to be its first student.

We still have to work out the details, but future Indigenous pupils in Trent U will be able to combine their Arts with cultural beliefs, basically.

Once the real meaning of Ehts’ehchi, the Traditional Burial Practices of the Dene, started to make sense to our school’s staff they also caught onto the idea that I had actually begun my research into our Ways of Knowing and Beliefs some five years before even applying. It all started falling into place.

Now I no longer wonder why our Dene Elders will often go out of their way to make sure these teachings carry on.

When I was in Deline for our Sahtu In the Arts Project, a good decade ago, I noted that one Elder in particular, Joe Blondin, Jr would come by, almost every single day, to talk about the old days with me.

His interest was most often about the Four Dene Prophets of Deline, and in particular, Etseo Eyha, the man who foresaw the use of uranium from Dene lands to end the Second World War.

When I got done with last summer’s work at home with the Elders and Youth, my uncle Thomas Manuel let me know that I was “making Dene prophecies come true, helping to get our Dene ways into the schools.”

A prophecy is not exactly the same as the lessons you get out of the bible, which is quite often the doom and gloom, long past its due date, and sterile, stifling besides.

One of my good friends put it best to me. I was very confused by the mass amount of information about our times before the Mola, White man, came along.

He said that ‘you have to put yourself in there. These Elders, they want you to work on yourself, your dreams. That’s what Ehts’ehchi is all about, becoming a better person’.

Well, friends, with results like this I’m not complaining.

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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