Dene students paddle Canada’s longest river | I Hold the Dehcho in My Heart / Sedze Tah Dehcho E’Toh

Dene students paddle Canada’s longest river | I Hold the Dehcho in My Heart / Sedze Tah Dehcho E’Toh


♪ Every time you go on
the land and you immerse yourself in
culture and the land, you learn something new. ♪ Life is really short and
you should really take every opportunity I can, especially about being on
the land and Dene culture. ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ (indistinct chatter) Got it… Go down. This end, this side,
goes down. – Yeah.
– Going down. (laughs) Okay, so we go, like,
hand-over-hand there. What we’ll do,
is we’ll start off with just the basics of canoeing. So, how we want to prepare
ourselves, and then, how we want to get
into these canoes without… The Dehcho Dechinta River
Semester is a semester that starts in Providence, and
ends in Fort Good Hope. Along the way,
we’re gonna be stopping in each community
on the Dehcho Rivers. You’re on your own now. What else it is,
is a chance for me, personally, to explore the
region that my mother and her side of the
family came from. I guess, like,
a lot of my life, I’ve struggled
with my identity. I didn’t really get to know,
like the Dene part of me, and so, Dechinta has really
provided that kind of outlet… And, to learn more about
myself and Dene culture. I’m currently enrolled in
a social work program in Yellowknife. Had I been provided, like,
with an opportunity to take social work programming
with on-the-land learning, which I think is so
tied into one another… it would’ve
been a lot better. I’m nervous about,
like, what happens if we dump and the
canoe tips over. But what’s helping kind of
curb that is that I’m gonna be learning
about the places that, like, our ancestors
traveled, and traveling a route that
many people traveled before us. Oh, we’re here! (birds chirping) (bugs buzzing &
toads croaking) (cocks gun) (gun shot) (bugs buzzing &
toads croaking) (indistinct speaking) Dehcho, it means,
“big river”. “Deh” is a river.
And, “cho” is big. Some people say,
they say Dah’ro; that’s how I grew up
talking about Dah’ro. Many rivers flowing into it. I was born at Gah The ah,
or Rabbitskin River. – Say that.
– Tsá chi. That would be tsá,
is the beaver. And tail, is chi Sah.
Like, this… Sah, is bear. You say, sah, sah, sah. – And this is tsá.
– Tsá. Tsá, tsá, tsá,
and sah, sah, sah. (grinding) Years ago, I was
away a long time. I came back in…
the early 70s. And one day I told them, (speaking in Dene) It means, “I don’t speak
our language too good.” They all scolded me.
(speaking in Dene) Says, “Don’t say that.
Just keep talking.” Mhm. Now the wind’s
gotta blow this way. Come on, wind.
Come on. Throughout my life,
I’ve always been really connected to
our spirituality. Through residential
school and colonization, that was taken away
from the Dene people. I’m hoping that they,
they learn, they really see the
land for what it is. It’s not on, just paper
that they read about. The significance of
the land and the water, by Dene people in the north, and they see it for themself,
firsthand. ♪ (singing & drums) ♪ We’ve been actually talking
a lot with elders and people… And I think really vital to
learn from the people from the Northwest Territories
and other Indigenous people about the history of the
Northwest Territories, to tell you the stories about
the place and to show you how to respect the area
that you’re coming through. ♪ (singing & drums) ♪ ♪ (singing & drums) ♪ Speaking in Dene
(Language Class) Speaking in Dene
(Language Class) Speaking in Dene
(Language Class) (laughs) Speaking in Dene
(Language Class) Speaking in Dene
(Language Class) Speaking in Dene
(Language Class) I didn’t really know
what I was getting into, other than six
weeks of paddling. I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know what we
were gonna be covering; I didn’t know, like,
where we were going really except past Simpson. Speaking in Dene
(Language Class) (laughs) Speaking in Dene
(Language Class) (speaking in Dene) It’s really frustrating
to feel like a child, like you’re learning
something new, like A, B, Cs and 1, 2, 3s. Trying to come to
terms that it’s okay, you’ve just
gotta keep trying. (speaking in Dene) (laughs) You think about it, and like,
that is a language that has been birthed from the land; that
is the language of the land, and that we’re speaking,
or, at least that we have, like, we’re being surrounded
by Dene Zhatie while we’re on Dehcho land. I just sit and I think about
that sometimes: This is what my ancestors were
speaking while they were here and they were just traveling.
This is how they prayed, they prayed in this language.
And that’s, like… That…
(laughs) That’s so, that’s so,
that’s so amazing. ♪ These are the best ones. ♪ Whoa, oh,
that was a good one. (laughs) ♪ (indistinct speaking) ♪ JIM: I remember,
as a young child, I was sent to
residential schools… It was pretty touch,
but at the moment, we just– that’s just the way it is. But now, everybody’s
maybe colonized too much. And they all
depend on the store. But back then, the people
depended on the land for food. I don’t want to
say survival, but it was a way
of life, so… ♪ When I first came here,
I kind of lost my language, and it was hard for
me to communicate. It was just an Italian
and French tongue; that’s what they gave us
in the residential schools. It took me about a year to
really understand and… And to be a true–
A real Dene again. We never had the opportunity
to name ourselves. It’s always other people
telling us who we are and what, what we’re doing. There’s all these
terminology out there, so as a young person, trying
to figure out who you are, I think it’s even harder
as an Indigenous person because, you know,
are you Indian, or, are you Aboriginal,
or are you First Nations, or are you Indigenous?
What are you? Because I feel like
it’s just a part of me, like, this is me. Like,
I’m from the earth, and like, we’re made up of
the same things, like, my ancestors
and everything, so I’m like, this is… I’m the same
thing as the ground. It’s really beautiful to
be on the– I’m gonna cry.
(laughs) ♪ (singing) ♪ ♪ (singing) ♪ ♪ (singing) ♪ ♪ (singing) ♪ ♪ (singing) ♪ – Probably a good idea.
– Yeah. I was really yearning
for cultural experiences. And the fact that they
let me bring my kids, I’m like,
“Pfft, we’re going.” I wanted to bond
with my kids more, in a different way. I wanted us to have a shared
new experience together. And I wanted us all to
reconnect and reclaim some of our culture that in some
ways was stripped away from us because we
had a number of… Well, both sides of the family
did go to residential school, so we’ve had to
deal with a lot of that. It was to reclaim and
just re-strengthen and… And to just really
connect with the land. (indistinct speaking) (thunder) (heavy rain) (thunder) It hasn’t been an easy trip. It’s physically
a lot of work. Getting used to this type of
like life on the land and in the water, the sun,
and having to paddle even though you’re tired,
or having to paddle until you can eat… And I can’t just
like fall apart. Like, I have to really–
there’s other people kind of counting on me,
physically, to pull through. You also have to
think of your community, and I think it’s important
to realize that it’s not just you
in the equation. (indistinct speaking) And it doesn’t have
to be super thin, okay, ’cause it’ll dry all
the moisture. And we call meat,
tthé. – tthé?
– tthé. – tthé
– tthé tthé – Say it again.
– tthé Yeah.
You? – tthé
– tthé – tthé
– Right. My Dene name,
since I was a girl, when I was a little girl
was Dudu. And, when I went through
residential school that’s what all of my
little friends called me, was Dudu. When they started
saying “Ethel Antoine”, I didn’t know who
they were talking to. I only knew myself
as Dudu. When I joined the group,
I realized that, oh my gosh, I am the eldest person
with the group, you know. I do have
something to offer. They were so
willing to learn. We’ll start with a prayer acknowledging the
spirits from here. I just want to acknowledge
all of the people, all of our ancestors
that traveled here. I’ve been told that my
family on my mother’s side used to live in this area. So, this place is
really significant to me. The fact that my
great grandparents and my grandfather, like,
lived in this area… really brings, like,
a connection to me. ♪ Speaking in Dene
(Prayer) ♪ ♪ Speaking in Dene
(Prayer) ♪ ♪ Speaking in Dene
(Prayer) ♪ ♪ Speaking in Dene
(Prayer) ♪ ♪ ♪ Bear Rock is a really
significant place to Dene people. It’s a place
where Yamoria had skinned three beavers,
which you can see in the mountains
still to this day. Yamoria is one of
our creation stories. We felt like kind of we were
tested because we had to like bushwhack,
we couldn’t find the trail. Our elder instructors said
often it’s romanticized how life was back on the land,
but it was a lot of tough work. ♪ For me, like the
significance of Bear Rock was that it’s the first time
I’ve really connected to any sort of Dene story. What brought it together,
what really made it hit home was being on Bear Rock. It made Dene stories
come alive for me, and so, being able
to climb up there, you could just feel the
power and significance and you know that,
like, thousands, thousands and thousands of
people have climbed up there before you. ♪ You can see the
whole landscape below, you can see everything
around you. It was just,
it was just beautiful. ♪ (machine whirring) (machine whirring) As we were passing
through Norman Wells, you saw all of the
manmade islands and the oil rigs and whatnot. It really put into perspective
what we’ve seen along the whole way. It made me more think of
the social effects that that all had on the people here. With more people and that
type of transient lifestyle comes alcohol and drugs,
and a whole bunch of social issues that
still exist today. And so, it was really sad.
At least, I question, what am I doing to
make a difference in that? So, little by little,
I guess. I really gave that
a lot of thought. ♪ ♪ My grandparents
would have lived on the land, in the bush. You have my generation where
that connection between land and culture was really
like starting to sever. This is the most I’ve ever
spent on the traditional territory that my
family lived on, and a part of my
spirituality was really strengthened
by being here. ♪ So I think it’s really
important that we – and that I – try to relearn or
rediscover all those cultural practices in the
places of our forefathers so that we can maintain that. ♪ This whole experience has
really been transformational for me to feel more grounded
and more centered in feeling the pride,
feeling Dene. It’s so, it’s so different
to learn from elders and to learn from the land than it
is to learn from books or western academia. And, I think it’s
really set me up with, with a guide of how I’m
gonna go about the rest of my learning. ♪ It’s integral for people to
start stepping up so that they know the history and
they’re learning the things that have been done before
because if no one does it, then there won’t be
much of a community left. ♪ You really don’t know who
you are until you know where you come from, and for
the majority of my life I never really knew
that part, so… now I’m hearing
more and more, and… Rediscovering who
that person is. ♪ Being able to travel the Dehcho
and being able to travel where so many before me have
traveled and lived life… I think, deepens my
understanding of my culture and who I am. ♪ ♪ ♪

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