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Edward Sangris remembered on poignant day as new council sworn in

Chief Edward Sangris of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation speaks to an audience at Somba K'e Park in 2021. Meaghan Brackenbury/Cabin Radio

The late Edward Sangris was at the fore of new Yellowknives Dene First Nation councillors’ thoughts as they were sworn in on Wednesday.

The passing of “Chief Eddie,” who led Dettah for 16 consecutive years, was announced by the First Nation a day earlier.

Councillors representing Dettah and Ndılǫ were elected in September, shortly after Sangris stepped down following four terms in office. He was succeeded by Chief Ernest Betsina.

The election was disrupted by the evacuation of both communities in August as wildfires closed in. Betsina said on Wednesday the swearing-in was taking place just ahead of a deadline after which a new election could have been required.

Leading an opening prayer, veteran councillor Liza Charlo-Pieper described a “very emotional last week” for the First Nation and its members.

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She said councillors had been “fortunate” to work with the late chief and “need to carry on the responsibilities” that he and other former leaders had set out. She prayed that the latest elected officials “will stand strong, with a strong voice.”

Earlier, Premier Caroline Cochrane said in a written tribute: “Being a leader is frequently challenging. Chief Eddie led with passion, love and a great sense of humour. It was an honour to know him, and to work with him.

“I remember Chief Eddie from when we were children, and he would travel from Dettah to Yellowknife by dog team. He was proud of his Dettah home then, and he continued all his life to represent his community.”

Former chief Darrell Beaulieu, now an NWT business leader, said Chief Sangris had been “an experienced man on the land and in the community as a leader.”

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“His experience in the mining industry, and as a wildlife officer and in boardrooms of business … has helped advance the growing Indigenous economy in the North,” Beaulieu said.

“He asked many questions so he may understand the background, issues and possible solutions that was needed to make life better in our communities. We will miss his engagement and thoughtful discussion on what was important to each one of us.”

Arrangements for the paying of respects following Chief Sangris’ passing have yet to be announced. The Yellowknives Dene First Nation’s office reopens on Thursday after a two-day closure following the announcement of his passing.

NWT News/North Local Journalism Initiative reporter Tom Taylor contributed reporting.