The niece of a man commemorated in a downtown Yellowknife mural says his philanthropy altered perceptions and helped her own recovery as a Sixties Scoop survivor.
Nadine Delorme spoke on Saturday at the official ceremony recognizing a mural honouring her uncle, Charlie Delorme – renowned for donating his federal residential school settlement money to good causes before his death in 2013.
The mural, created by Yellowknife artist Terry Pamplin, was installed on a 48 Street wall earlier this year. A plaque in English and Dënesųłiné now stands beneath it, remembering Charlie.
“I am a Sixties Scoop survivor,” said Nadine, “forcibly removed from my home, family, and traditional lands.
“I went on a lifelong search and Uncle Charlie was the beacon home.
“Seeing him on the news, and that my name was the same as his, and that my spirit was just as strong as his, brought me home.”
Several speakers at Saturday’s ceremony remarked how Charlie’s actions, in donating substantial sums to local non-profits, changed how he and others were viewed.
“For the longest time I suspect he was a street person but that was actually just his office,” said Pamplin, who created the mural’s artwork last summer.
“This mural is supposed to encourage people to look twice in your heart whenever you have a notion about somebody you see on the street,” he added.
Mayor Mark Heyck said: “I know it wasn’t his intent – his generosity came from within – but perceptions were shattered, I think, when the news came out of what Charlie had done with his residential school settlement.
“At the first opportunity he had, he gave back to those organizations who had supported him throughout his life.”
Nadine Delorme expressed remorse that she was “too late” to meet her uncle before he passed away, but thanked people for their “beautiful stories” about him.
“Mahsi Cho, Terry Pamplin, for bringing my Uncle Charlie to life again for me, and for this community. Thank you, Yellowknife, for doing this for my Uncle Charlie,” she said.
“And thank you, Uncle Charlie, for changing the world’s perception of what it is to be homeless, what it is to be a residential school survivor, and what it is to be an Indigenous man.”