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NWT residents and South African firefighters share a moment


Victor Marie shared this footage of South African firefighters performing in Fort Smith.

Firefighters from South Africa and NWT residents performed for each other in Fort Smith as the crews arrived to help the territory battle a severe wildfire season.

The NWT’s environment minister, Shane Thompson, told Cabin Radio 60 firefighters from South Africa had been scheduled to arrive in the territory on Sunday.

South Africa’s firefighters have been helping out across Canada this summer, performing songs and dancing in most communities on their travels.

Once Victor Marie realized some of those firefighters were heading to Fort Smith, he decided responding with a local welcome would be important.



Marie, of the Salt River First Nation, called his friends Peter Paulette, a passionate champion of drumming and hand games, and Henry Beaver, a Cree Elder. They hatched a plan to visit the firefighters after their initial orientation on Sunday.

The three wanted to “welcome them to our community and our land,” Marie said, “just to make them feel comfortable, because they’ve come a long way.”

Marie, Paulette and Beaver performed a smudging ceremony and a prayer song. The firefighters sang to them in return, a moment captured on camera.

“One of the firefighters noticed Henry was using sage, so he asked him and he gave him sage,” Marie told Cabin Radio.



“I always carry fungus in my car, which we use for ceremonies too, and I had some sweetgrass, so I gave him that stuff, too, and told him how to use it. He was really thankful for that.”

Marie, a hunter and trapper who has also spent time fighting fires in the NWT, said firefighters from New Zealand and Alberta have received a similar welcome in recent weeks.

“They’re from the other side of the world,” he said of the South African team.

“To have them come up here and fight fire? That’s pretty neat.”