Treaty 11 anniversary events helped me connect with my ancestors

Treaty 11 anniversary events helped me connect with my ancestors

by Sue Jones
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It was a great privilege to help feed the fire at her community’s Treaty 11 commemoration this summer, writes Karalyn Menicoche of Fort Providence, N.W.T.

Karalyn Menicoche

Karalyn Menicoche looks out to the Mackenzie River in Fort Providence, N.W.T. in June, as her community marked the 100th anniversary of Treaty 11. (Anna Desmarais/CBC )

This First Person article is the experience of Karalyn Menicoche, a member of the Deh Gáh Got’îê First Nation, who lives in Fort Providence, N.W.T. Find out how to pitch your own story to CBC North here.

The Treaty 11 commemoration and the special events that took place all down the Mackenzie Valley this summer offered a good time to reflect and acknowledge the real outcomes of that treaty signed 100 years ago. Many promises have not been honoured, and it is time for the Canadian government to be held accountable.

My home community of Deh Gáh Got’îê [in Fort Providence, N.W.T.] gathered on June 27 to commemorate our signing of Treaty 11. It is our protocol to always start special gatherings with a fire-feeding ceremony, and this is where we use the best of our culture to feed the fire and pray and honour what we are gathering for. This time is very spiritual and highly respected among the Dene. It is empowering and uplifting.

It was a great privilege for me as a young mother to help feed the fire. I prayed for my community, ancestors and thanked our prophet Harry Francis for always being there for the people of Deh Gáh Got’îê Kue. I feel this is the time where these sacred elements of fire-feeding and praying to our ancestors has great benefits that will continue to help us persevere as a Nation.

When we gather, it spiritually sticks with people and it helps us connect with the prophets and ancestors who are always watching over us. We Dene used this time of the commemoration to proclaim our intentions of being keepers of the land and to let the world know that while genocide happened to our people, we are still here and thriving the best ways we can.

Treaty 11 Commemoration

‘It was a great privilege for me as a young mother to help feed the fire,’ writes Menicoche, standing on right. (Deh Gah Gotie First Nation/billbradenphoto)

As I stood with my community that day, I reflected on our cultural resurgence and the self-recognition that is important to reclaiming who we are as Dene. Our resilience as First Nations people and our sovereignty as Nations is at the heart of who we are as people of the land.

Our fire-feeding ceremonies show how our community could reconnect and draw on the power of our ancestors. Blessing and honour for our culture to its highest regard is the ultimate in our gatherings.

We as treaty holders need to protect what is ours for future generations. Our Dene communities need to practice our own Dene laws because our Dene laws will help guide us through tough and unforeseen times that may lie ahead.

The legacies of colonization need to be addressed but also need to come to an end. We are in a new era, when many things are being discovered and revealed about how Canada was created.

Karalyn Menicoche

‘We are in a new era,’ Menicoche writes. (Pearl Leishman/submitted by Karalyn Menicoche)

The treaty signed by my ancestors in 1921 was based on a “peace and friendship” agreement, and I feel infuriated by how the true intentions were dishonoured in so many ways we know of today.

These thoughts and feelings were constantly at the front of my mind on the day of the commemoration. I realized that Canada forgets how we are the First People of Canada.

I did an interview that was broadcast on CBC at the start of the Treaty 11 gatherings. It was special to me because it was on the national news, and available for the whole country to see. I wanted to give our prime minister the message that we are still here, and that we need to correct and fix the colonial agenda that is still happening today, especially with our treaties.

At the end of that day in June, I felt so proud of myself because I know my great-grandmother Madeline Simba was there with me, knowing that I was taking a stand to have our voices heard, and using the power of our ancestors to always guide me.

Mpx Taylor Treaty 11 Anno.jpg?Crop=1

Marking 100 years since Treaty 11 was signed

Indigenous communities are marking the 100th anniversary of the signing of Treaty 11, which saw the Indigenous people of the North unwittingly give away their land to the British Crown. NOTE: At 1:27 in this video, Chief Joachim Bonnetrouge is incorrectly identified as Deneze Nakehk’o, who appears at 1:51. 2:56

Want to write for CBC North? We welcome pitches for 500- to 700-word essays or opinion pieces and you don’t have to be a professional writer. Read more here or send your pitch to [email protected].

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