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Tłı̨chǫ

Tłı̨chǫ ‘denounce false information’ in viral Facebook post


The Tłı̨chǫ Government on Thursday issued a statement criticizing a viral Facebook post that claimed Behchokǫ̀’s Chief Jimmy Bruneau School remained “a residential school” among a series of other allegations.

The post, published earlier this month by an account named Micheal McKenzie, was shared thousands of times. On Wednesday, McKenzie said he had hidden the post as he was “sick of being threatened.”

In the post, McKenzie suggested he had played a role in compiling a report related to Tłı̨chǫ communities. He characterized Behchokǫ̀ as a community where many Indigenous practices were actively suppressed and, in particular, suggested Chief Jimmy Bruneau School operated as though it were a residential school.

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The claim came as Indigenous peoples across Canada confront fresh trauma related to the legacy of residential schools, with hundreds of newly discovered unmarked graves reported at former residential school sites in British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

Though McKenzie’s post went viral, many of the shares appeared to come from people with little to no connection with either the community or the North.

In a statement shared online, the Tłı̨chǫ Government, Tłı̨chǫ Community Services Agency, and Behchokǫ̀ government said McKenzie’s post amounted to “hurtful misinformation.”

“The information contained in the post includes many hurtful and disrespectful portrayals about our community and school that are false. We denounce these comments,” the statement read.

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“Our people practice our traditional way of life and continue to strengthen Tłı̨chǫ language and culture. The Tłı̨chǫ Community Services Agency that manages the Chief Jimmy Bruneau School is led by a board of Tłı̨chǫ people. The Chief Jimmy Bruneau School has an integral role in supporting our children to learn gonàowoò, our Tłı̨chǫ way of life, through the strong language and cultural programming the school offers and the Tłı̨chǫ laws and principles that guide the school.

“We have our own people working in our school, teaching gonàowoò, and caring for our children. We will continue to govern ourselves according to gonàowoò and fulfill the vision of Chief Jimmy Bruneau to be ‘strong like two people’. We are proud of the vision and legacy that our great leader, Chief Jimmy Bruneau, had that led to the creation of this beautiful school and learning space in our community.”

The Tłı̨chǫ statement characterized McKenzie as an outsider who had come to the NWT for a short time and reached conclusions without understanding what they were seeing.

“This is exactly what Chief Jimmy Bruneau was protecting our people from when he advocated to have this school established in our community,” the statement read. Chief Bruneau led the people of Behchokǫ̀ from 1936 until 1969. He passed away in 1975 at the age of 89.

The Tłı̨chǫ Government said McKenzie’s post was “causing harm to Behchokǫ̀, Tłı̨chǫ people, and Chief Jimmy Bruneau School.” The statement also requested that the Tłı̨chǫ Friendship Centre in Behchokǫ̀ – with whom McKenzie was understood to have been working on the report to which his post alluded – “refrain from working with Mr McKenzie in the future and … rectify the harm he has caused.”

“We are disappointed to see such harm inflicted on Tłı̨chǫ people by another Indigenous person and hope to see reconciliatory action taken immediately,” the statement added.

The friendship centre has been approached for comment.

McKenzie, on Facebook, said the initial post had been disabled and he was too busy dealing with affairs in British Columbia to immediately address concerns raised.

“It is hidden until I release the report,” a post on Wednesday stated.

“I am sick of being threatened by people who support religion and refute what I personally witnessed and experienced. I am too busy right now with the fire that is British Columbia. I will be going over these things within my network to figure out the best way forward during this time.”

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