Meet the Elders of the Athabasca Denesuline Schooling Authority

Meet the Elders of the Athabasca Denesuline Schooling Authority


It’s necessary work for Elder Billy Joe Mercredi from Stony Rapids, SK the place he says there are hardly any elders left.

“They’re all handed on and its unhappy as a result of talking to individuals in my neighborhood, they don’t respect us as an elder. The explanation why is as a result of they by no means seen what its prefer to stay up within the entice lands or something like that. It’s unhappy to see our younger individuals by no means occurring the lake and setting a internet,” he mentioned.

Mercredi was born Dec. 22, 1948 and is a member of Black Lake First Nation. His father, Boniface labored for the Hudson’s Bay Firm shopping for fur. As a child, Mercredi would be part of his father looking and fishing or holding a lantern to mild the paths as they arrange snares. He fondly remembers ready for his father to return house from work one winter night time. On the time, Boniface used an outdated, motorized toboggan known as a Bosak to journey. Mercredi and his household might hear his father approaching their house, however the machine wasn’t slowing down.

“I suppose there was no break and boy he drove proper into the home,” Mercredi laughed. “By the facet of the range you may see two little skis sitting contained in the wall there. We couldn’t cease laughing.”

One other time, whereas looking along with his father, Mercredi had no tent or blanket, so his father taught him the best way to pores and skin a caribou. He washed the conceal within the river after which dried it by the fireplace whereas Mercredi collected willows to make little picks to carry the hides collectively.

“At night time once we laid down, I couldn’t sleep in any respect…it was so scorching in there. Unbelievable, “he laughed.

Whereas he’s grateful for the moments that introduced a smile to his face, there are components of his childhood that he’d moderately overlook. Mercredi and his brother attended college in Stony Rapids through the Fifties. He recalled a time when a trainer took a seven-pound dictionary and hit his older brother with it on the highest of his head.

“He was by no means the identical after that. He by no means opened his eye once more. Just a few months in the past, I went to go to him in North Battleford the place he’s and he can’t even speak. He misplaced his reminiscence and all the pieces from the day when he bought hit.”

Years after the incident, Mercredi mentioned he and his siblings considered suing the college division, however his mom reminded them it nonetheless wouldn’t change what occurred to her son.

“For me, I’m actually pleased with who I’m…how I grew up. Not simply me however the remainder of my brothers…I’m pleased with who we’re. There was 16 of us within the household and all of us listened to our dad and mom who taught us love and forgiveness. These days, children don’t pay attention. They’re all hooked on video games, watching TV. They don’t speak. They don’t pay attention they usually don’t even know the best way to fish or they don’t eat caribou meat. They’re residing on junk.”

Its why Mercredi takes his position as an elder for the Athabasca Denesuline Schooling Authority so significantly.

“I come right here to look ahead for the way forward for these children. Youngsters have all the pieces now – area, baseball diamond. If there may be bullying – that comes from the dad and mom. The dad and mom are those which have to show ‘no’ and ‘don’t’ they usually aren’t doing that. I need to see all of them watch and pay attention. When an elder got here and visited us on the home rising up, I sat with them and listened. Its not like that anymore.”


Elder William ‘Billy’ Adam

Billy Adam, 66, was raised on the trapline in Fond Du Lac. He had 19 brothers and sisters and remembers working alongside the shoreline, taking part in with toboggans, and constructing mannequin airplanes.

Adam stop college after Grade 10 and says it’s a call he nonetheless regrets.  He began working odd jobs when he was 14 and spent a lot of his life employed in northern mines.

Now he has 5 children of his personal, 13 grandchildren and one great-grandchild and is utilizing his position as an elder with the Athabasca Denesuline Schooling Authority to encourage them and all different children to go to highschool.

“In the event that they go to highschool, there might be alternative for them. I didn’t go to highschool and solely labored arduous labor jobs. The youthful technology can nonetheless work within the mines, however when you’ve an training, you don’t should do the labor jobs,” he mentioned.

He’s proud to say in recent times communities in Saskatchewan’s far north have produced docs, dentists, academics, RCMP and conservation officers who’ve grow to be position fashions for the Fond Du Lac Denesuline First Nation, which is about 60 kilometers south of the Northwest Territories border and about 1,275 km northwest of Prince Albert.

For Adam, conventional Indigenous data is simply as necessary in relation to training. He’s frightened his tradition is fading away.

“I used to go along with this elder and generally go beaver looking in a ship or caribou looking. That’s the place I bought all my data from, however you don’t see that taking place now an excessive amount of.”

He acknowledged there are tradition camps all through the province instructing children the best way to hunt, experience canine sleds, and play conventional video games amongst different classes.

“It’s crucial as a result of if it wasn’t going the best way it’s now, it could have simply died as a result of a number of younger individuals – they don’t actually appear to care in regards to the conventional life.”

Adam makes use of his position as an elder to assist protect the Dene language. He seen some children in northern Saskatchewan can solely converse English or are solely spoken to in English. He says out of the inhabitants of two,000 on and off reserve, solely a handful are elders and the chance to take care of tradition and custom is dwindling.


Elder Angus Joseyunen

Throughout his childhood, elders used to inform Angus Joseyunen to by no means lose his language.

“For those who lose your language, you’ll lose all the pieces and what your tradition is meant to be,” he mentioned.

Joseyunen is now an elder himself from Hatchet Lake Band. The 66-year-old was born in The Pas, MB with 4 brothers and a sister. His dad and mom additionally raised two different kids.

“We had no electrical energy at the moment. Only a lamp, no heaters, no wooden range at the moment. We needed to haul wooden, however we didn’t have a chainsaw; simply an axe to cut wooden and we solely lived in log cabins at the moment.”

He grew up open air looking and fishing, setting nets and canoeing in the summertime time and attempting to find ptarmigans within the winter. Joseyunen mentioned he solely went to highschool till Grade 3 and bought his first job when he was 14 years outdated. He began working within the mines in 1982 and raised eight children along with his spouse Rose. Like his dad and mom, he and Rose additionally raised two different kids. Household, he says, is necessary and he urges younger individuals to embrace their tradition.

“We train them the best way to hunt, set a internet or make a fireplace. Like my great-grandfather used to inform us – we begin with out electrical energy and finish with out electrical energy.”

As an elder for the Athabasca Denesuline Schooling Authority, Joseyunen encourages youth to profit from their lives.

“I need to proceed what I do now in working for the youngsters to get them going to highschool,” he mentioned. “I need the youngsters to advance with their training but in addition concentrate on their historical past and tradition.”

His message is all the time the identical – go to highschool and you’ll stay a very good life and so will your loved ones.

Elders like Joseyunen are effectively revered for his or her knowledge in relation to First Nations custom. They communicate data, tradition, values, and classes by sharing and modeling conventional practices. By providing his enter, Joseyunen performs a vital position in supporting each formal and casual training in Indigenous communities throughout the north.


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