The people Shane Thompson and others remembered in 2021
Shane Thompson. the MLA for Nahendeh, does something unusual with most of his member’s statements delivered at the NWT legislature.
Member’s statements are a chance for each MLA to make a short pronouncement at the start of a day’s business, before the nitty-gritty of legislating begins in earnest. Ministers like Thompson often make no statement at all.
Thompson, however, uses almost every statement to deliver a short eulogy for a resident of the Northwest Territories or person connected to the NWT who has recently passed away.
He was not the only MLA to deliver eulogies in the legislature this year, but he does so with such regularity that the remarks have become a feature of Legislative Assembly broadcasts.
His recollections of NWT lives lived often pass without fanfare. Here, as the year closes, we have gathered the obituaries he and fellow MLAs delivered this year for 32 people.
Names are spelled as provided in Hansard, the daily written record of speeches in the legislature, and details given are those read aloud by the MLA. Entries below are repeated verbatim except for minor edits for clarity.
Remembered by Paulie Chinna on February 3, 2021.
I would like to take this time to recognize a distinguished Sahtu leader, Mr George Cleary, who passed away on September 3, 2020, at the age of 65.
Mr Cleary had a long list of accomplishments that are worth noting. He went to elementary and junior high school in Délı̨nę, and then to high school in Inuvik, graduated, and also completed the teacher education program in Fort Smith. Once he completed the program, he went off to receive his Bachelor of Education degree from the University of Saskatchewan.
He worked as a teacher and a principal for the Ehtseo Ayha School in Délı̨nę. He was also a former chief of the Délı̨nę Band, president of the Sahtu Dene Council, vice president for the Dene Nation, chief negotiator for the Sahtu Dene and Métis land claim agreement, advisor to the Délı̨nę Self-Government Agreement, and the director of Indian and Inuit Services for the federal government.
I would like to highlight his work again on two momentous undertakings of his time. Mr Cleary worked as a director of intergovernmental relations for Délı̨nę in its final push to reach and ratify a self-government agreement. He also played a key role in overseeing and ensuring a final Sahtu land claim agreement that was not only successful but also fair to the Sahtu people.
Mr George Cleary was inducted into the Northwest Territories Education Hall of Fame in 2014 for making a lasting, positive impression in the field of education. He loved hunting, fishing, camping, taking youth on the land, hockey, reading, and writing. He is survived by his wife, Doreen Cleary, and his children, Taylor, Brent, and Holly.
His accomplishments to the Northwest Territories and to the people of the Sahtu deserve our greatest attention and gratitude for Mr Cleary’s lifelong dedication to looking out for the welfare of our children, our communities, not only when he was alive but for generations to come. I would like to express my gratitude for the light and the impact Mr George Cleary had on the Northwest Territories, paving the road for future leaders.
Elizabeth Kuptana and Sadie Ruben
Remembered by Jackie Jacobson on February 3, 2021.
Elizabeth Kuptana passed away. She was a respected Elder, recognized, and she received an award for 20 years of service as an Inuvialuktun teacher. She also ran and coordinated many youth language camps, mainly during the summer, at Greens Island, aka Egg Island. She was a positive influence and advocate of her lifestyle and a traditional cultural leader.
Sadie Ruben passed away in December at a young age. Sadie was a very energetic and family-oriented person who, through her efforts to improve conditions for her family, moved several times from the community.
On her final return home, her home was opened up to many people, including those who were struggling with a place to sleep. She took great care every day to make sure her Elder father, Marcus Ruben, Sr, and her uncle, David Ruben, the oldest residents, were fed and her personal care given, besides her housecleaning, to help the Elders.
Our respect goes out today to the families who all lost loved ones in the Beaufort Delta in the last few weeks. We have a lot of people hurting, and we just have to keep moving forward and keep them in our thoughts and prayers.
Remembered by Rylund Johnson on February 4, 2021.
Michael Burchill, former constituency assistant for Kam Lake, Frame Lake, Yellowknife Centre, and my friend, passed away over the holiday season. He was not yet 30 years old, but in his short time on this Earth and in our North, he worked tirelessly to help others.
From a young age, Mike felt a calling to serve. Whether volunteering every available hour to a territorial campaign or something small like helping a friend carry groceries, Mike was there. Mike was always there. I don’t think I’ve met anyone who simply cared about others the way Mike did. His altruism was unironic, his love uncomplicated, and his laugh almost too authentic.
Mike didn’t spend long in our North, but in that time, he fostered countless friends and helped numerous constituents. Connection was a fundamental principle to him. He felt every person he met deserved what was, in retrospect, the most precious thing he could give: his time. If you met him, you wouldn’t have forgotten him. He made sure of that.
As MLAs, I know many of us would be lost without our constituency assistants. They are front-line workers who must master the inner workings of government. They help people get income assistance, housing, healthcare, and so much more. When I was first elected, Mike helped me set up my office. Many people who have held office in this legislature benefited from his talents. More than a colleague, he was a friend to many. He was my friend, and he will be deeply missed.
Though he is gone, he is not lost to any of us. The time he spent with others will always remain in the memories of those who loved him. His influence can be found in many of the words of Hansard. He believed in the power of words, and never more so when they were spoken within a form of democracy like our Legislative Assembly.
I am confident he would be given great solace knowing he enters a form of immortality by becoming words in Hansard: Michael Burchill.
Remembered by RJ Simpson on February 4, 2021.
I would like to commemorate one of my predecessors, the Honourable Paul Delorey, who passed away on New Year’s Day earlier this year. Paul served Hay River as a Member of the Legislative Assembly, he served the Northwest Territories as the Speaker of the House, and he served the community as a prolific volunteer and outstanding citizen.
Paul was first elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1999, defeating six other candidates and earning the privilege of representing the newly created constituency of Hay River North. He was elected again in 2003, that time by acclamation, and for a final time in 2007. In 2011, he announced that he would not seek office again, retiring with a perfect 3-0 record. To this day, constituents tell me stories about the effort that Paul put into assisting them, sometimes hinting, I think, that I had better live up to the standard that he set.
In addition to serving his constituents, Paul served the entire territory as Speaker of this House in the 15th and 16th Legislative Assemblies. My colleagues who had the pleasure of working with Speaker Delorey have always spoken highly of his performance in that position, citing his character, his professionalism, and the seriousness with which he approached the role.
The level of civility displayed in this House differentiates our Legislative Assembly from virtually all legislatures in Canada and, frankly, around the world. We pride ourselves on our members’ ability to have frank discussions and hold the government to account while maintaining respect for each other and upholding the dignity of this institution. It is no accident that we have been able to maintain this delicate balance. Speaker Delorey was keenly aware that his job was to maintain this balance for the sake of our territory, and he did so masterfully. This afforded him the respect of his fellow legislators, as well as Speakers across Canada, among whom he was universally admired. During his tenure, Speaker Delorey modelled to his eventual successors the qualities that a speaker should possess and, in that way, our assembly has continued to benefit from his work all these years later.
Speaker Delorey was also responsible for bringing the Legislative Assembly closer to the people of the NWT in a number of ways. Thanks to his efforts, the Legislative Assembly’s television channel is one of only 14 channels that the CRTC requires cable and satellite providers to carry and include in all basic packages. This has allowed us to broadcast our proceedings across Canada and rebroadcast in a number of Indigenous languages, which is something no other jurisdiction can lay claim to.
Speaker Delorey introduced the mace tour, which brings the mace, the speaker, the clerk, the sergeant-at-arms, and more to schools across the territory, to teach youth and communities about consensus government and the work of the assembly. He also reinforced and greatly expanded the page program and is responsible for ensuring that youth from all regions of the territory have the opportunity to come and work and learn in the Legislative Assembly. All these efforts fundamentally changed how the public understands and interacts with the Legislative Assembly.
Paul’s contributions were by no means confined to his work as MLA or speaker; far from it. When he was named Hay River’s citizen of the year in 2019, it was really a recognition of his five decades of tireless volunteerism. His knack for fundraising, his 40 years of coaching, and the sheer, incalculable number of hours he spent volunteering are the kinds of contributions that communities are built on. There is no doubt that he was a pillar of the community.
There is so much more that could be said. I haven’t even mentioned curling. Paul touched many people’s lives, whether as a colleague, a friend, a teammate, a coach, a mentor. He will be missed by many, none more than his family. My condolences go out to his wife, Davida, his children, and his grandchildren.
Remembered by Shane Thompson on February 8, 2021.
Morris Daniel Lafferty was born on September 22, 1934, to James and Marguerite Lafferty. He was the fifthborn of five sons and five sisters. He spent his life in Fort Simpson, attending school locally and completing up to Grade 8.
Morris wed his late wife, Susan, on December 17, 1965. Together, they had two daughters, Zina and Marcie, and their son Skylor, who was lost in early infancy. They raised Gloria as their own from the age of five months old and fostered many other children throughout their lives. Two weeks prior to the arrival of their firstborn, Morris had emergency brain surgery to remove an abscess that formed from an accidental hit on the head from an axe, as a child. The surgery left him paralyzed on his right side.
He was a musician, an artist, and a long-term supporter of the Métis Nation, and promoted the unique Métis culture and traditions. He served as the first president of the Indian Brotherhood of the Northwest Territories.
Morris started working at a young age, holding various positions throughout his life, buying his first fiddle from the Eaton’s catalogue for $45 as a young man. In 1958, while working for the power corporation, he was given the privilege of turning on the power for the first time in Inuvik. He had a wealth of information and was always willing to share it with others, including contributions to publications related to the history of the Métis of the North.
He will be remembered by those who knew him for his witty sense of humour and ability to tell stories for hours. He leaves behind his three daughters, 10 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. The family would like to thank everyone for their kind words, thoughts, and prayers during this difficult time. As well, they would like to thank the long-term care staff in Fort Simpson for their continuous support and the care they provided him. He will be sadly missed.
Remembered by Lesa Semmler on February 8, 2021.
I would like to thank the family for the honour to read the eulogy for Charles Edward Inglangasuk Lennie, known to most as Edward Lennie, who passed away on November 6, 2020.
Edward Lennie was born at the Husky Lakes area on June 23, 1934. He is the youngest child of Sarah Kyikavikchick and Lennie Inglangasuk. His mother, Sarah, was a Gwich’in who came from a historical line of Gwich’in chiefs, and his father, Lennie, was a well-known leader amongst the Inuvialuit. Lennie was known as a Bankslander because of the numerous trips by schooner to Banks Island on the mainland.
Edward spent the first 10 years of his life travelling by schooner and by dog team with his family all over the Beaufort coast, Arctic islands, and Mackenzie Delta. His family had camps at Napoyak in the Mackenzie Delta, Nulluk in the Husky Lakes area, Lennie River on Banks Island, and he spent his winters on Victoria Island, north of Ulukhaktok.
In 1944, his mother passed away, and the following fall, he was put into residential school in Aklavik. He mentioned some hardships but mostly talked about the lifelong friends that he made from Fort Good Hope, Fort McPherson, Tuktoyaktuk, and the Beaufort Delta. His father died a few years later and, at a young age, Edward lived with his older sister, Winnie Cockney. He also stayed with his aunt Alice Simon and Old Simon at Nepoyuk.
Square dancing stories started when he was living with his sister Winnie. When word came through that there were square dances at the station, he would finish his chores early and run over to the dance, no matter the weather. His cousins remember waltzing with him at the cabin to music over the radio. If you didn’t know how to dance, he would let you stand on his feet to follow his lead.
Edward’s passion for dancing showed effortlessly when he participated at local square dances in all of the communities. He loved to call out square dances, and he was proud to see the young men learning to call, too. Edward would dance all night long if people would let him.
One of Edward’s first jobs was working on the Hudson Bay supply boat, and he continued to travel all over the Beaufort coast. In 1958, he married Jeannie, and they began their family. He moved his family and worked at numerous Dew Line sites, including Cape Parry, Stokes Point, Shingle Point, and Horton River.
In 1960, Edward moved his family to Inuvik, where he worked for the transient centre, and he continued to work for the Canadian Armed Forces, the federal government, and for Nortran, a branch of the oil industry, to recruit and train northerners.
Inuvik was a modern town, so Edward made sure that his family lived a traditional lifestyle. He taught his family to burn wood for heat, haul ice for water, and use a dog team to check the snares down the river. He ensured that his family always had time out on the land.
As Edward and Jeannie raised their children, they also provided a home for students who attended residential school. Edward enjoyed encouraging youth through northern games. They would spend hours playing these games in the living room that were always accompanied by the aroma of traditional foods that they would feast on at the end of the evening.
Edward and Jeannie cared for a lot of young offenders who were placed in their home, as well, and showed them their way of life. Years later, the same boys would express their appreciation for the positive impact they made in their lives. Through his life, he promoted a sober lifestyle, teaching people that you did not need alcohol to enjoy yourself.
Edward worked hard at keeping his culture and history alive and for this, he received many recognitions. He was the recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medallion in 2012, and was presented this award in Inuvik on February 15, 2013, by the Deputy Commissioner of the Northwest Territories, Gerry Kisoun, and Robert C McLeod, MLA for Inuvik Twin Lakes.
Edward is greatly missed by many who experienced his warm smile and his smarty sense of humour.
Remembered by Shane Thompson on February 9, 2021.
Susan Marie Deneyoua passed away on December 16, 2020. I would like to thank her niece, Sharen Mandeville, and her sister for helping me put this together.
Susan was born on January 10, 1966, to Henry and Bella Deneyoua. She was to celebrate her 55th birthday this year. Susan had four brothers and five sisters. She went to school at Bompas Hall and TSS. Susan was a hard worker all her life.
Growing up, her mom would ask her to sew, even though she was left-handed. She had a hard time holding thread, but she was ambitious and very determined. She enjoyed sewing uppers for others. She was one of the lucky ones who was taught the proper way of tanning a moose hide by her mother and father. It was hard work for her parents to scrape and twist the moose hide, and she was right there helping them.
She has a son, his name is Brandon, who I had the pleasure of coaching. Brandon and Nelsonia Lacorne blessed Susan with a grandson, Branson, who is now three years old. She cherished and loved her grandson a lot. She loved the outdoors. Picking berries was her favourite in the fall. Susan and her niece Sharen would get buckets full of berries and compete with each other.
Susan met Rufus Sanguez from Jean Marie River, and they worked together doing contract work at Sambaa Deh Park in the summers, also cutting and hauling wood. She was a very hard worker and couldn’t sit down very long. She loved cooking and washing and hanging clothes outside. She used a thing called a wringer washer, can you believe that, still to this day.
There are so many fond memories of Susan. Her niece shared memories of them cruising around in her truck, and she would be teasing her. She’d slap her leg and say “how sick” and burst out laughing. Her laughter was infectious, and they’d laugh till they both said their stomach was sore.
I had the pleasure of talking to Susan numerous times and she spoke her mind, and she was always about the people. With deep regret, I will have to say that Susan will be sadly missed by us all.
Remembered by Paulie Chinna on February 9, 2021.
I would like to recognize and honour the life of a truly inspirational mountain Dene Indian elder, Mr Maurice Edward Mendo.
Born in 1932, from the time he was born until he had passed away on January 25, 2021, Mr Mendo embodied in every way what it meant to be a Dene person. At every chance he got, he was on the land hunting, trapping, and educating others. If he wasn’t on the land, he told stories and reminded the Dene people of their traditional history.
For example, in a virtual exhibit by the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, on the celebration of Yamoria, the legends, Mr Mendo contributed three powerful stories about the life and spirit of the Dene people.
Mr Mendo taught himself to read and write in Slavey, which speaks to his intelligence and dedication. Mr Mendo was a great Elder who carried the spiritual backbone of the Sahtu people. He was always a strong believer in his faith, which was reflected in both his love for singing in the church and prayers for others. When others needed help, he was always there to provide support in whatever way he can.
Mr Mendo was also a loyal and hard-working individual. He had retired from Imperial Oil after 20 years of service, of excellent work. He was a board member of various organizations. He worked tirelessly for the Naats’ihch’oh National Park in Tulita, located along the Yukon border. W
ith his wife, Stella, they were committed to passing on Dene culture to their children, their grandchildren, more than 40 godchildren, and to the community, not just about things on the land, but also about dignity, kindness, spirituality, equality, and much more.
The death of Mr Mendo meant we lost a unique way of how to think and navigate in this world. I know that he will be deeply missed by his family and the community. I myself will be forever grateful for him, as he had shared his knowledge and influenced the people of the Sahtu for generations to come. During his time, he had shared with me the equality of being in leadership and the fairness of being in leadership and working together as one, to be a stronger North representing our people. He had a lot of great messaging to share with people. He had also been very influential with the younger generation.
Mr. Mendo is someone who deserves our greatest recognition and appreciation. I also was very touched by the Tłı̨chǫ leadership who had attended his funeral and by the Chief of Wekweètì. Mahsi cho to his friends and family. He was an exceptional person who made the Sahtu Dene people a much stronger people and a much stronger region. He will be greatly missed.
Remembered by Shane Thompson on February 10, 2021.
Jim Weaver, a former teacher of Fort Simpson, passed away on November 24, 2020. Jim was born on October 15, 1941. As a young teacher, Jim travelled north in 1966 with his wife, also a teacher, to Iqaluit and Pangnirtung, where they spent 10-plus years teaching. It was here he developed his love for the North while spending his time on the land hunting caribou, ptarmigan, and fishing char with the local residents. It wasn’t long before he had his own snow machine and qamutit.
In 1978, he had the opportunity to bring his young family to Fort Simpson, where he would continue teaching for the remainder of his career. He enjoyed being part of the community and, most of all, the school, bringing elements of the land into his classroom, where his students would learn the biology of local fish and wildlife, including how to trap, skin, and clean them for subsistence.
He was also known for his assortment of animals in his classroom and engaging teaching lessons, no matter the subject. He also had a passion about bringing his students onto the land, where they could learn through their own hands-on experience. His Dr Kelly camps are remembered by many. Most importantly, his former students now span across the North, taking some of those powerful experiences with them.
After retiring, he stayed one more year so that he could enjoy a few more trips hunting and fishing on the beautiful Mackenzie River and not have to return home on a Sunday night for school the next day. Bringing home a moose was his greatest highlight. Finally, after 21 years in Fort Simpson, almost 30 in the Northwest Territories, in declining health, it was with much sadness he returned to his home town of Doaktown, New Brunswick.
His time in the North created experiences and memories he cherished deeply and will never be forgotten by his family, whom he shared them with. He leaves behind his wife, Joan; son, Kevin; and daughter, Sharon; and four grandchildren. He will be sadly missed by his friends and family, and he had a huge impact on our community.
Remembered by Shane Thompson on February 23, 2021.
Fred Diamond’C was born on February 14, 1946, in Fort Liard to Edward and Laura Diamond’C. Unfortunately, his mom passed away when he was a young boy. His dad later met Pauline Eton, and they got married on August 18, 1954. Edward and Pauline raised Fred and his siblings in Fort Liard, in Bovie Lake. This started Fred’s love for going out on the land.
One summer, Fred and his siblings were home from residential school. Fred went for a walk to Hay Lake with his little brother John. John said his legs were sore, so Fred put his little brother in his backpack and packed him home. Upon arriving at home, he told his mom that he shot a bear. His mom told him to put the bag in front of her and open it up. John’s head popped out. That was Fred’s humour. If you knew Fred, he was always happy, and his sibling said he would never argue with them. In his teen years, he went to residential school in Yellowknife with his brother Enis. He mentioned that all the students that went to residential school were like brothers and sisters.
During his life, Fred had many jobs, but the ones that seemed to make him very happy were when he was a prospector and did surveying. The company gave him a plaque for all the hard work he did. I was told that he took to the bush and was handy at staking claims, or cutting lines, or building camps. He could do anything, and he was very reliable. He enjoyed his adventures.
Upon returning back to Yellowknife, he got into building wood cabins and selling them. Fred was a true bush person, loving the land and nature. He later built his forever home on Highway 3 at kilometre 296, close to Yellowknife, where he lived with his dog, Musky. He lived there for many years. Fred loved his home, his dog, Musky, and all his family and friends. He was preceded by his parents, step-mother, sister, brother, and step-sister. He was survived by his three sisters and two brothers.
Fred passed away on January 21, 2021. Fred is loved and will be greatly missed by all who knew him.
Remembered by Lesa Semmler on February 23, 2021.
I would like to send my condolences to the family of Darius Elias, who served as MLA for the Vuntut Gwitchin riding in the Yukon for 10 years.
He started his political career very early, and I was very saddened to hear of his passing. The Beaufort-Delta, as many know, and the Yukon have a very close relationship and very many family connections.
When I was elected, he called me, and he provided me with some advice. I will always remember that.
The words that he said to me: “Always stay true to the people who elected you.”
Prayers and strength to the family at this time to our former MLA of the Vuntut Gwitchin, Darius Elias.
Remembered by Shane Thompson on February 24, 2021.
Claude Fontaine was born on October 13, 1963. His parents, Gerard and Therese Fontaine, and their six children welcomed Claude into a loving and caring home. Claude and his seven siblings were raised on their family farm in Prud’homme, Saskatchewan. It was there they all learned the value of hard work and the importance of family.
One of Claude’s many special gifts was his ability to make deep and lasting connections with people from all walks of life. It would not be uncommon for Claude to meet somebody for the first time and, in a conversation, quickly discover an extended family connection, a friend of a friend, or a common event or place where paths may have crossed at one point.
Conversation with Claude was not short but, when having a conversation with Claude, you would not be looking at your watch or your phone to check the time. You would not even be thinking about the time. What would feel like 15 minutes would end up being an hour or sometimes longer.
Claude was trained as a machinist, mechanic, truck driver, and later a welder. He worked on the railroad line, fixing equipment and keeping supplies moving. He drove transport trucks across Canada and the US, moving goods to people. He liked to talk about his travels in his 18-wheeler with friends and family.
Claude decided to settle in Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories. He said he knew he was home when he first laid his eyes on the Mackenzie River. Claude found an instant and profound connection to his new home. At the same time Claude chose to live in Fort Simpson, Fort Simpson also chose Claude as one of their own. Through his many skills, Claude became a valuable addition to the community, and he developed a family-like relationship with so many people.
Around 2006, Claude met Lisa, a single working mom. Claude became a regular presence in Lisa’s life and her son, Tristen’s, who was about nine years old at the time. Claude would describe Lisa as his soulmate, the one true love of his life. Claude and Lisa were blessed with their boys, Kaleb and Kole. It was a great game-changer for Claude. At 65, he was not expecting to fall in love, let alone start a family.
Claude found peace and serenity in nature, and he felt his strongest connection to nature when he was in the Nahendeh. Known by the Dene as the land and water of the people, Claude explained to his family in the south that the forest, lakes, rivers, mountains, and animals of the North were much like his church. This is where he felt most connected to God or, as he would say, “the Big Guy.”
The family would like to thank the community of Fort Simpson for all their support during this difficult time. He will be sadly missed but never forgotten.
Remembered by Shane Thompson on February 25, 2021.
Nolan Swartzentruber arrived in Iqaluit in 1974, assuming assigned duties as a classroom teacher at Nakasuk Elementary School followed by tenure as vice principal at the said school.
Beginning in 1978, he served as the principal in Nuiyak school in Sanikiluaq, immersing and enjoying the lifestyle of the small traditional community, fishing for cod in Hudson Bay, watching the community boat arrive on the beach after a successful walrus hunt; observing the landing of the planes on the ice in 1978 with a herd of 60 reindeer on board, replacing vanished caribou to be released and hunted in future years; listening to the excitement when a polar bear was spotted near the community; and standing amazed by the talents of the skilled soapstone carvers.
In 1984, the family moved westward to Fort Simpson. During this time, he served as a principal and later was hired by the Deh Cho Divisional Education Council as director. Here, below the treeline, he spent many weekends cutting deadfall, stacking firewood, and preparing for the winter. He enjoyed outdoor trips navigating the Dehcho River, loving every minute of the peaceful and pristine landscape while harvesting fish, camping, hunting moose and caribou.
During his tenure as educator, he engaged with various projects with the Department of Education, Culture, and Employment in Yellowknife, served on the ECE Strategic Plan Steering Committee, ECE Teachers’ Training Steering Committee, ECE’s Financial Steering Committee, Principal Certification Program, Western Arctic director and superintendent/president, Association of School Board administrator. He was invited to sit at the negotiating table for NWTTA contractual agreements in 2009. He was recognized by his peers and awarded the NWTSA distinguished service award.
He demonstrated a lifelong love of learning, always engaging in novel information and acquiring new skills. Hobbies included stained glass, photography, film development, woodwork, fix-it projects, and music. That which he learned, he passed on to the students and community members. He was accepting, fun-loving, friendly, always there to lend a helping hand. He formed lasting relationships during his 36 years in the North.
He was an honourable man, holding himself to high standards, and remaining true to himself and his beliefs. Central to his life and most important were his three girls: his wife, Fanny; daughter, Sharon; and granddaughter, Trinity. He was deeply loved and will be sorely missed by everybody that knew him.
Remembered by Jackie Jacobson on February 26, 2021.
I want to give my condolences for Jana Blow in her passing in Tuktoyaktuk last week.
Speaking to her mom, Barbara Panaktalok, she is survived by Barbara; her brothers, Ellery, Ross, Darcy, and Dale; her sisters, Lennette, Tina, Amanda, and Eva; her two daughters, Dana and Bobby Joe; and her grandchildren, Ricky Lee, Nicky Anne Kikoak, Jared Adam Kupon, Jolena, Selena, Marie Mabel, Jace, Anne, Joe Dale, Josie, Amelia Lena, Haisley, and Joe Matthew.
Jana leaves behind nine grandchildren. She is predeceased by her dad, Joe Blow, a well-respected Elder, and her sister Veronica.
Jana will be missed and not forgotten. Thoughts and prayers are with her and her family and the people of Tuktoyaktuk.
Remembered by Kevin O’Reilly on March 10, 2021.
A good friend and advocate for the North and nature, David William Schindler, passed away last week at the age of 80.
David grew up in Minnesota and studied engineering and then biology in the US before completing his doctorate at Oxford in 1966. Later that year, he moved to Canada to serve at Trent University before becoming the founding director of the Experimental Lakes Area project near Kenora, Ontario, in 1968. His 10 years there were filled with real-life experiments of adding different chemicals to small lakes to solve real-world problems, such as the dying Great Lakes and acid rain. This research was revolutionary in terms of our understanding of aquatic ecosystems.
In 1989, the University of Alberta offered both David and his wife, Suzanne, positions, and he became the Killam Memorial Chair and Professor of Ecology. That same year, he was named to the Alberta Pacific Review Panel to study a proposed pulp mill on the Athabasca River. Cindy Kenny-Gilday sat on that panel for the Northwest Territories, and Jim Boucher, Chief of the Fort McKay First Nation, was also on the panel. They did their best to protect the North. Eventually, the mill went ahead but with new technology that was less harmful to the environment.
At the University of Alberta, Schindler continued his water research. He warned about the environmental impact of how “the combination of climate warming, increases in human populations and industry, and historic drought is likely to cause an unprecedented water crisis” in the Prairie provinces.
In 1996, he appeared as an expert witness during the review of Canada’s first diamond mine. He next turned his attention to the environmental impacts of the tar sands on the Athabasca River watershed. David was always watching out for us, what was upstream of the Northwest Territories. During his 50-plus years, he was awarded most of the planet’s top environmental science prizes and held 13 academic or honorary degrees from universities around the world. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2004.
One of his best quotes is as follows: “I am looking forward to some day seeing things done right so that I can relax and just do science. That’s where the fun is. It isn’t in hassling with politicians and that, which is to me rather like playing chess with a gorilla. The game is boring, and you know you are going to win, but you have got to be prepared to duck once in a while when they get angry and take a swing at you.”
Remembered by Shane Thompson on March 12, 2021.
I would like to recognize the important work of Dr David Schindler, who was an influential contributor to the NWT water policies. On March 4, Dr Schindler passed away at the age of 80.
He was the leading Canadian water scientist who was instrumental in building our underlying knowledge of the effects that acid rain, climate change, long-range atmospheric transport of contaminants, and oil sands have on Canadian lakes and rivers. Dr Schindler had a keen respect for the NWT. In a 2015 Globe and Mail article he wrote that “the water sources of the Northwest Territories make it one of the most important places in the world.”
Dr Schindler was an important part of the history of water science and policy in the NWT. He was a science advocate on the Northern River Basins Study, an expert witness during the review of the first diamond mine in the NWT, and twice a panel member for the Rosenberg International Forum that provided water policy advice to the Government of the Northwest Territories.
He supported the development of the NWT water strategy and advised on the development of bilateral water management agreements with other Mackenzie River basin jurisdictions.
Dr Schindler spent time in the North as both a scientist and a dog musher. He was a strong advocate for the inclusion of local and traditional knowledge in monitoring, research, and decision-making long before others. In the same 2015 Globe and Mail article, he wrote that many Indigenous people of the North talk about the water as the “beating heart of our land” and encouraged us all to think that way and work together to ensure that it beats for generations to come.
I want to express my sincere condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Dr David Schindler, and on behalf of ENR, I would like to thank Dr Schindler for his research on freshwater resources and advocacy for Indigenous people. It is my sincere hope that his legacy will also continue for generations to come.
Remembered by Shane Thompson on March 30, 2021.
Dylan Gabriel Boniface Cazon was a young man who blessed us with his kind spirit, generous heart, and his infectious smile. He was born on January 26, 1993, to loving parents, Gilbert and Mary Jane Cazon, and was the brother of Bianca, Shannon, and Chantel. He was known to his nieces and nephews as “Uncle Pickles.” Dylan shared his birthday with his late cousin, Daniel Allaire Jr.
Dylan took pride in his family, whom he loved dearly, and cherished the friendships that he gained during his life. Dylan was a hunter, son, brother, uncle, nephew, cousin, friend, and companion. He was born into a bloodline of a traditional lifestyle and loved the freedom of being on the land. He loved to learn, protect, and take care of our land and waters. He also loved being on the fire line alongside his crew members, the “Extreme Team,” as they were called. He was a hard worker who loved his job and his coworkers.
Dylan was an immensely proud Dene man who honoured his family’s traditional way of life. He loved his family camp at Notana Lake, and this showed in all he did. Dylan was the only son in the family and was the third child of Gilbert and Mary Jane. He shared many fun times with little sister Chantel, including sharing the fond memory of cutting her hair and keeping themselves entertained with antics like sliding down the steps in a laundry basket.
Dylan started working for De Beers at the Gahcho Kue Diamond Mine after he completed his mine training. Dylan was so proud of his newfound passion, and from what his boss and coworkers said, he was a dedicated worker and a joy to work with. It was during this time he met his girlfriend, Shauna Catholique, whom he loved very much, and her two beautiful daughters. Dylan was happy, and it was visible in all he did. He cherished every moment he spent with Shauna and their beautiful daughters. They embraced Dylan, and he embraced them.
The family did not think of this as a loss but rather a celebration of life. We must remember how blessed we are to have known Dylan, his love, his kindness, and the love that he had for each and every one of us. May the love of his family and community surround him and provide guidance on this new journey. The family would like to thank everybody who reached out to them and helped them during this difficult time.
Henry Calumet, Mary Beaulieu, and David Sangris
Remembered by Steve Norn on March 30, 2021.
I want to send my sincerest condolences to the communities of Deninu Kųę́ and Dettah. Sadly, in Deninu Kųę́, we lost two Elders, Henry Calumet and Mary Beaulieu. Loss is never easy, and to lose two of our knowledge-keepers in that close together of a time period is especially tough. The funeral service for Mary will be taking place this afternoon. I wish I could have been there. I send my prayers out to the Beaulieu and Calumet families.
Sadly, we also recently lost a young man from Dettah, David Sangris. His service will be taking place tomorrow afternoon at St Patrick’s church. My heartfelt condolences also go out to the family and community of Dettah.
I just want to say a few words. I get a lot of calls from frustrated community members from south of the border. They can’t come to a lot of these services. I really feel for them. Those are really difficult calls to make when you tell somebody, “Unfortunately, no, because of public health orders, you can’t be here and properly grieve.” Closure is really important.
At the end of this pandemic, when our public health orders are finished and we go back to life as we once lived it, we can have a good feast, a good drum dance, whatever culturally appropriate celebrations we have, and properly honour our loved ones that we lost during the pandemic. I give prayers out to my constituents during this time of loss.
Remembered by Shane Thompson on May 27, 2021.
Mary Neyelle was born on March 22, 1934, at a traditional Dene Camp at Fish Lake near Wrigley, Northwest Territories. She passed away on March 30, 2021.
Mary was 86 years old. Mary and her late husband, Edward, had nine children together. They adopted Camille later in their lives. She had 16 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren. Mary had unconditional love for all her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.
She was caring, passionate, loving, good-spirited, patient, a great teacher, and an outstanding person who had a beautiful soul.
Mary had great respect for the land and knew about the traditional medicines from the land. She liked walking around outdoors and always said that it was so beautiful outside on the land. She often sat outside her house in Wrigley on the stairs in the summertime with a cup of tea and enjoying the warm sun, sunny days with birds singing and the squirrels making noise nearby.
Mary had many friends everywhere she went and even travelled to Montana, USA, once with her best friend, Ethel Lamothe, for a sundance ceremony.
Mary was very talented in making traditional Dene handcrafts. She has made numerous beaded moosehide moccasins, gloves, mukluks, vests, jackets, wraparounds, picture frames, and a few other crafts for her children, great grandchildren, and many other friends and people who knew of her special talents. She attended handicraft events and sold many items.
Mary liked George Jones and Hank Williams country and western music. And I have to agree. Those are amazing artists.
Mary left a great deal for others to follow in acknowledging the Dene traditional way. Mary will be greatly missed and will be remembered by her family, great grandchildren, great great grandchildren, friends, and many people who knew her. She left us with priceless memories which we will cherish in our hearts. We will sadly miss her.
Remembered by Rocky Simpson on May 31, 2021.
Sonny James MacDonald, someone who I considered a friend, was born in Fort Chipewyan on May 26, 1939, and passed away quietly on April 20, 2021, at his home in Okotoks, Alberta.
At the time of his passing, he was surrounded by family and much love. Sonny is survived by his wife of nearly 56 years, Helen Hudson MacDonald, and by his three children, sons James (Toko) MacDonald and Thomas James (TJ) MacDonald, and his daughter, Marcy Blayne DeMond.
Sonny was the son of Germain and Harriet MacDonald. He grew up in a large family consisting of three brothers, Ted, Danny, and Freddie, and three sisters, Helen, Rita, and Anita.
He leaves behind seven grandchildren, five great-grandchildren, and many cousins, nieces, nephews, and in-laws. The cornerstone of Sonny’s life was that of family and friends.
Over his lifetime, Sonny lived and worked in Uranium City, Inuvik, Rae-Edzo, Prince Albert, Hinton, Fort Simpson, Hay River, and Fort Smith. Earlier in Sonny’s life, his work helped bring the electrical grid to all points of the NWT. He was so committed to his job; he even kept working after he survived a helicopter crash in 1971.
Sonny was an artist. His carving of loons sits next to you in this Chamber and reflects his passion and love for the arts and wildlife. Sonny’s art is well known throughout Canada and the world. He travelled to places that included Japan, Germany, France, and the United States, and he always had his art with him.
He met many dignitaries and many received his art as gifts. The list includes Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Phillip, Pope John Paul II, Pierre Trudeau, John Diefenbaker, Stephen Harper, and Jean Chretien, just to name a few.
Sonny was passionate about art and served as a president of the NWT Arts Council for 10 years, and also served on the Canadian National Arts Council. A significant life accomplishment for Sonny was being a signatory to Salt River First Nation’s land claim settlement with the federal government in 2001.
Another great moment was being honoured and receiving the inaugural Order of the NWT from his lifelong friend and NWT Commissioner George Tuccaro.
There are many interesting stories of Sonny. One was while camping, he had a very close encounter with a bear and survived the attack. Another one recalling the time, in only his underwear, he was chasing a porcupine with the butt end of a rifle, most likely looking for quills for an art project.
His greatest joys were his family, friends, children, and grandchildren. He loved art, camping, hunting, cooking, fishing, bonfires, and laughter. There was always a lot of laughter when Sonny was around. I know that he will be missed by his friends down at the wharf and his crew at the Wok in Hay River, places he loved to visit.
Sonny will be truly missed by his wife, Helen, family, and friends; however, his memory and his booming laughter and infectious smile will not be forgotten.
Remembered by Shane Thompson on June 4, 2021.
Steven Squirrel was born in Fort Simpson on Tuesday, June 1, 1954. He was the only child to his parents, the late Victor Squirrel and the late Corrine Grossetete. Unfortunately, his father Victor passed away when he was a young boy. A few years later, his mother met Franklin Grossetete and they had an additional six kids: Gerald, Michael, Robert, Allan, Darlene, and Ronald. Corrine and Franklin raised Steven and his six siblings in Fort Simpson.
When Steve was a young man, he met his wife, Loretta Ann, in Wrigley and Fort Simpson. After a few years, they were married on September 7, 1979. Together, they raised five children: Brett, Jacinda, Jonathan, Courtney, and Stephanie.
Steve was the best husband and father his wife and children could ever ask for. They had the privilege of growing up watching their father work hard each day, not only for his family but the community he loved and cherished.
Steve was always known as a friendly person who dropped what he was doing to help in any way he could. He worked for many years with the Village of Fort Simpson as the water treatment plant operator. Very dedicated, 47-plus years to the Village of Fort Simpson, ensuring they all had clean drinking water and the community’s water lines were taken care of.
When he first looked at retirement, he was excited to do other things. However, about a week later, I saw him at the bank with his work clothes on. I asked him what special project was he working on. With a little smile, he said the water plant. I asked what he meant. And he said he is back at work for the community. This was Steve – always caring about the people.
The family want to thank the Fort Simpson Health Centre, Yellowknife Stanton staff, LKFN, and many community and family members that have been there for them during this difficult time. He will be sadly missed by all.
Remembered by Shane Thompson on November 22, 2021.
Mary Bonnetrouge, known as Bernice, was born on September 17, 1957 to Xavier and the late Marie Bonnetrouge. She was the eldest daughter of the family. She passed away on June 2, 2021, after a long battle with her sickness.
She grew up in Fort Providence where she attended school and was a very happy child and a favourite among many in the community. She lived in Yellowknife and in Fort Simpson, which became her home for over 20 years with her partner, Barney Ryan.
Shortly upon her arrival in Fort Simpson, she earned a Slavey nickname which translates to “popcorn.” She loved to hear that nickname and felt that it made her at home. She had the honour of representing the community at the 1996 Expo to showcase her traditional craft in moose hair tufting. She’s always been recognized for her beautiful work in this forum.
Bernice was a valuable medical interpreter and escort for the Elders in Fort Simpson. When she was not doing that work, she loved to work at the camps as cook or cook’s helper.
She was known for her contagious and uplifting and unique laugh. Just listening to her would start a chain of laughter from those around her. As well, she was a caring, compassionate, loving, and an understanding person.
Bernice leaves behind two daughters – Veronica and Jessica – grandchildren, siblings, and many other family members and friends.
Bernice will be greatly missed and will be remembered by her family, friends, and many who have known her.
The family would like to express gratitude for all the community’s kindness and generosity at their time of grief. As well, thank you to Fort Simpson and Stanton’s medical staff for all their help during this difficult time.
Remembered by Shane Thompson on November 23, 2021.
Martine Lomen was born on March 16, 1933, in the Mackenzie Mountains past Fisherman’s Lake, 18 kilometres from Fort Liard. Her biological parents were Christina Dudan and Alexi Lomen.
In 1947, she was married to Fredrick Kotchea through an arranged marriage.
On October 13, 1948, both of them had their first child, John Kotchea. The story she told was that she was pregnant and was due any time, and wanted to be at Fisherman’s Lake with her parents when she would have her first child. However, during their travel, she went into labour on the way there, and it was just Fred with her. She gave birth to John. After the delivery, she told Fred she and the baby were OK, so they continued their travels to her parents’ camp.
Both of them went on to have eight sons and four daughters. At the age of 15, she was a young wife and a mother and learned her craft skills with traditional moose hide making.
She said her mother had asked her to start fleshing a moose hide since she had injured her arm. That is when she realized that she was very strong, and fixing a moose hide was no problem for her. She went on to develop her skills and passion for the moose hide making.
She was known for her skills in crafting moose hide moccasins. Fort Liard is well known for its traditional birch bark berry baskets. She and her late sister, Sarah Edda, contributed to reviving and redesigning the traditional ways of the birch bark berry baskets. Together they developed a new way of crafting birch bark baskets and adding colourful dyes and porcupine quills. As the saying goes, the rest is history.
She was passionate and created her birch bark baskets with colourful quilled flowers and birds, and harvested the material from the land.
Many people are thankful and grateful for her traditional crafting as she usually passed on her skills and knowledge. She was well-informed, a stern teacher to her daughters, daughters-in-law, and granddaughters.
On February 11, 2021, she passed away. Martine and Fred had raised a large family with many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and they will be forever missed and loved.
As her son Steve said it best, her legacy is with us, and her shoes will never be filled.
Remembered by Shane Thompson on November 24, 2021.
On July 22, the community of Nahanni Butte lost a respected Elder, William Konisentia.
William was born at Netla on September 23, 1943. He was the second eldest child in the family of Joseph and Margaret Konisentia. He was raised in the Netla River area until families were relocated to Nahanni Butte in the early 1960s. The family was happy with this move as this is where William met his sweetheart and future wife, Bella Matou. On May 18, 1967, they got married in the log-built church.
They were very fortunate to have six children. They enjoyed life together, especially when it came to having picnics along the Liard River. When family talked about their time together, it always involved making a lunch in the largest kitchen in the world: outside.
William was a very hard-working man. He took pride in looking after his family. He was an amazing trapper and hunter. Where possible, he would go out to provide for his family. He was very proud of his children. Besides trapping and hunting, he would take on work as it came his way. He was very proud of the slashing job that three of his brothers and three cousins did for Can Jay Exploration. They were known as the “Can Jay Boys” and the best slashers, efficient and fast workers. They were in such high demand that they did work in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and the NWT.
William loved his family deeply, and once you received a nickname from him you were family. His favourite was Snoopy.
The family would like to extend their gratitude and appreciation to all those who came to pay their respects to William. Mahsi for showing him support, love, and compassion. The family are grateful for everybody’s kindness during this difficult time. He will be sadly missed by all of us.
Remembered by Shane Thompson on November 25, 2021.
Wesley Jordon Grossetete was a young man filled with many talents. We were blessed with his kind spirit, who loved to joke and make everyone around him feel loved, special, and ending every conversation with a smile.
He was born on April 26, 1985 to loving parents Alex and Ann, and was the brother of Camille. He had one niece, Mackenzie. He loved her dearly.
Wesley loved his parents dearly. He was the second child of Alex and Ann. He shared many fun times with his brother as they grew up in Fort Simpson. Fond memories such as “eating lots of carrots,” as Ann mentioned, so as they got older he could read to her by candlelight.
He always spoke to his dad in secret code – because, man to man, we do not always say “I love you” – so instead he would tell his dad to go to sleep, where his words were telling his dad he loved him so much.
Wesley was the person that showed Star Wars to his friends and family. In his teens he would mimic different characters from the original trilogy so when the prequel trilogy came out, he watched those ones and man, he hated Jar Jar Binks. Pretty sure everybody hated him.
He always used to make sound effects of things like chopper noises, bullets going by, and of course light sabers.
Wesley loved music. He played the guitar throughout his life and would love to jam from time to time.
Unfortunately, Wesley passed away on August 9. We cannot think of this as a loss but rather a celebration of his life. We must remember how blessed we were to have known Wesley, for his amazing laugh and the contagious love he had for each and every one of us.
May the love of family and friends surround him and provide guidance on his new journey. He will be sadly missed by all.
Remembered by Shane Thompson on November 26, 2021.
Raymond Deneyoua was born on November 17, 1955 and passed away on August 21, 2021 after a long battle with his illness. Raymond was 65 years old.
Raymond was one of 11 children to Denise and Baptiste Deneyoua. Even though Raymond never married, he was a forever loving brother, uncle, and cousin. He was about adventure, travel, and work, but he still had unconditional love for all his family and friends.
Raymond was a caring, passionate, loving, good spirited, patient, great worker, and an outstanding person.
Raymond had a great respect for the land and knew about the traditional ways to use the land and hunt. Even with his sickness, you could see him outdoors, always saying this is the best, this so great to be outside. It would help his spirit and body.
Raymond will be greatly missed and will be remembered by his family, friends, and many people who knew him. He left us with priceless memories which we will cherish in our hearts.
The family would like to express their gratitude for all the community’s kindness and generosity at their time of grief. Special thanks to Father McLean for his spiritual leadership and guidance during this difficult time. As well, thank you to the Fort Simpson medical staff for all their help during this difficult time. He will be sadly missed.
Remembered by Shane Thompson on November 29, 2021.
Miranda Marie Isaiah was born on November 6, 1979. Miranda was born and raised in Fort Simpson, where she lived her whole life. She was an only child to the late Caroline Isaiah. Miranda was raised by her late grandparents, Mary Rose and Charles Isaiah. Miranda had a very close relationship with her granny.
Miranda had the greatest sense of humour. Whenever you talked to her, you could guarantee she was going to make you laugh or tell you some crazy joke.
Miranda was a kind and giving person. She was always willing to give or share what she could with anyone. She would be seen driving around the community handing out meals and sandwiches to those that didn’t have anything to eat. As well, she always had water available to give away. She always liked to share, especially when she cooked meals. Nothing would go to waste.
During the flood, Miranda’s amazingness showed through. She helped those needing help with the basics. Whether it was blankets, food, a helping shoulder or being there for people, she would do what she could.
Miranda was a loving and caring mother to her three boys, Tanner, Nogha, and Hudson. The boys were her pride and joy. There was nothing she wouldn’t do for them. Miranda was a stay-at-home mother to ensure her children were looked after.
Miranda was a strong and independent woman who was stubborn when she felt she was right, which was most of the time, according to people that know her. She didn’t like to ask or reach out for help from anyone. She would always find a way to make thing work out, even if it was challenging times for her or her family.
Miranda was looking at going back to work at the long-term care facility once her boys were in school. She always spoke about her enjoyment working there and helping the Elders. As well, the Elders would really enjoy when it was her shift.
Family and friends would like to thank everybody for their kind words, comforting hands, donations, thoughts and prayers during this difficult time. In Miranda’s fashion, they ask everyone to take care of each other and remember to cherish the time we have with each other. She will be sadly missed by her family and friends.
Remembered by Shane Thompson on December 1, 2021.
On September 30, 2021, Gunnar Paulson passed away at the age of 64. Gunnar is survived by his brother Chris and his three daughters, Josanne Kenny, Kristen Tanche, Hannah Paulson, and his two grandchildren, William and Amaria Tanche.
Gunnar grew up in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, and always planned on travelling when he got older. When the travel bug hit him, he was off. He spent time all over the Northwest Territories, Saskatchewan, Iceland, and many other places. In the ’80s, he settled in the Northwest Territories, mostly in the Dehcho and Tłı̨chǫ regions, but also spent a lot of time in the Yellowknife area.
Gunnar worked in many different professions, from fishing, surveying, and office administration to diamond mining. He was a hard-working person who enjoyed all different jobs he had.
I had the pleasure of meeting Gunnar when he worked for the Whatì Band. He was well respected by his coworkers and bosses. He worked hard to get things done right. However, the job wasn’t what he was most proud of, and that was being a father and grandfather. He was a loving father and was very proud of his daughters and grandchildren. He was full of stories about their successes and challenges.
Gunnar was well known for his humour. He enjoyed telling funny stories and he had a long list of one-liners he would use during your conversation with him. If it didn’t happen, you were disappointed.
However, there was one thing that stood out: Gunnar’s generosity. If he was able to part with something to make the other person’s life better, he would do it, like the old saying, “he would give the shirt right off his back for you.” This was Gunnar. He had a lot of friends all over the North and will be sorely missed.
The family would like to extend their gratitude and appreciation to all those who came to pay their respects to Gunnar in person or virtually. Mahsi for showing him support, love, and compassion. The family are grateful for everybody’s kindness during this difficult time.
His daughters would like to thank the Stanton medical staff, the doctors, nurses, and nurses’ aides for making their father comfortable during the last few months. As well, for making the family feel wanted and respected during this difficult time. He will be sadly missed by us all.
Remembered by Shane Thompson on December 2, 2021.
On Tuesday, September 16, Tommy passed away in his home. Tommy was known by many others during his life. In the residential school in Aklavik, many of his friends called him Tommy Tucker. At Read Island, he earned the name Aqpaaq for running messages camp-to-camp.
In Aklavik, he was told to help a single Gwich’in woman whom he didn’t know. He would chop wood, haul ice, and trap for her. Before leaving Aklavik, he finally learnt that she was his aunt, Caroline Moses.
He returned from school to Prince Albert Sound, where his uncle lived, to learn the life of a trapper and hunter until his father, Johnny Norberg, picked him up and took him to Read Island.
Tommy tells of his skating ability when he would skate on the river at Read Island to reach the trapline, while Joe, his brother, would run the dogs. Sometimes Tommy would skate over 30 miles in a day.
Later in life, he was recruited for construction of the Dew Line sites. Wherever they were transferred to a site, there was no school. The children of school age were sent to residential school.
When their son Harry Maffa became of school age, Elva put her foot down, telling Tommy to quit working because no more children were going to be sent away to residential school. During that time, they moved to Coppermine, now known as Kugluktuk.
Tom and Elva went to visit their parents on Holman Island. While there, Tommy was offered a job of settlement maintainer. He maintained all the government buildings, including the school, nursing station, and operated the power plant. He built the first runway down the middle of town.
Eventually the government decided that the original site was not adequate to grow the community. Tommy was tasked with moving all the buildings to Queens Bay. The biggest piece of heavy equipment was a D4 Cat. He taught other men how to operate the equipment.
He’s always talking to his daughters about going to school, getting an education, and a career for themselves. He reinforced that his Grade 4 education from Aklavik was not sufficient. He encouraged his daughters to move where the jobs were and that home would always be there to come home to. He taught the boys and men in the family how to be prepared for unexpected situations, especially when whales arrived. The young men and grandsons loved having him around while they wrenched, built sleds, or did equipment repairs, supervising the operation and always giving tips. He kept them entertained, too, with stories. The boys loved his one-liners or comebacks.
I had the honour to be adopted by Tommy and Elva when I lived in Coppermine. My sisters, his siblings, friends and extended family and I will sadly miss him. The saving grace is he is now in heaven with his loving wife, Elva.
Remembered by Shane Thompson on December 7, 2021.
Mary Bernadine MacKinnon, known to us as Bernie, peacefully passed away in the arms of her partner, Terry Arnold, on August 23 in Happy Valley at the age of 62, from a heroic battle with cancer.
Born on the west side of PEI, she worked hard all her life. She was a cook in many seafood restaurants, she was a co-captain on a lobster boat, and a general manager of Subway. She and her husband ended up coming north to work for the Northwest Company, known as the Northern Store. They moved from Hay River to Fort Smith and on to Fort Simpson.
Bernie excelled in every position she was placed in. I got to meet her when she was the food service manager in Fort Simpson. Because of her hard work, she received the food service manager of the year.
Bernie made friends with people very quickly as she was very thoughtful, caring, and a sincere person. It was Bernie’s friendliness that made her a very special person to her coworkers and customers alike, making lifelong friends from all the stores she worked in. A perfect example was when she convinced a young man with some substance abuse problems to go out for help at a rehab place. He turned his life around, became a councillor, married a beautiful woman. Previously he and Bernie still played Scrabble online until her passing. The amazing thing was that he did not get a chance to beat her.
The family would like to thank the Northern Store for helping them move closer to Bernie’s home province as she was recovering from her first battle with cancer. Bernie always spoke about her five children and grandchildren. They, along with Terry, were her life.
Bernie will be sadly missed by her partner of 17 years, her children and grandchildren. God bless her and may she have peace with the Lord. As well, both her parents who are in heaven.
Terry and the family would like to thank all the medical staff that helped Bernie during the battle, especially the medical staff in Fort Simpson and the Stanton Hospital and the hospital in Edmonton. They made sure she and her honey were treated well. She will be sadly missed.