Born and raised in Dettah, a Yellowknives Dene First Nation biography states he enjoyed hunting, fishing and trapping with his father – Joseph “It’o” Sangris – and his brother Modeste.
He studied in Fort Smith and Lethbridge, then worked for more than 20 years as a heavy equipment operator in mining. He served as a Yellowknives Dene First Nation councillor for 12 years before becoming Dettah’s chief, according to a biography written by the Denendeh Development Corporation.
His father had served as chief for 32 years before him, while his brother Jonas served as chief for 12 years.
“Sorry to hear the passing of a great leader,” said Délı̨nę Ɂek’wahtı̨dǝ́ Danny Gaudet, leading tributes online. “YKDFN will surely miss him. The nation will miss him.”
“I had the opportunity to work with him during my time on council and my son had the opportunity to drum alongside him,” said Yellowknife’s deputy mayor, Stacie Arden Smith. “He had much to teach and stories to tell but most of all, he had a love for his community.”
Caitlin Cleveland, recently acclaimed to a second term as Kam Lake MLA, said the former chief had invested “love, leadership and heart” in the North.
“He has dedicated most of his life” to leadership, said Chief Clifford Daniels of Behchokǫ̀, “and may he be among our past great leaders in the great hall.”
One of Sangris’s last acts as chief was to lead Dettah during the evacuation of August and September, which also affected neighbouring Yellowknife.
“I know, deep down in my heart, I don’t want to leave,” he told the CBC in August as that evacuation began.
“Let the greater power look after our community,” he said of Dettah at the time.
The Yellowknives Dene First Nation said its offices would be closed on Tuesday and Wednesday this week.