Lutsel K'e honours elder's work
Annie Catholique posthumously honoured with Dene award

Tara Kearsey
Northern News Services

Lutsel K'e (May 08/00) - The true reward of work by elder Annie Catholique will be the continuation of Dene traditions through future generations.

Catholique spent a lifetime working to pass on traditional beliefs, knowledge and lifestyles. She died April 25 at the age of 85, but the South Slave community will long remember her contributions.

The day after she died, Catholique was honoured as the first recipient of the Dene Cultural Institute's Elder's Certificate of Recognition.

It was the first time the institute has designed or even presented an award of this nature.

It recognizes those who have honoured the traditional lifestyle, beliefs, knowledge and contributions they have made to the well-being of the Dene people.

She was mostly known as a midwife. She acquired knowledge of the profession from her mother and other ancestors.

"She also made quite a contribution with her story-telling, her traditional knowledge and the traditional skills that she had in addition to midwifery," said Jean Broda, executive director of the Dene Cultural Institute.

Catholique passed on her knowledge and skills to her children, grandchildren and everyone else around her.

"Just because she's passing on doesn't mean that it stops there. She shared her knowledge and so it continues.

"I think if we can continue to do some of the things she did, then what she passed on continues to be lived," said Broda.

The Elders Certificate of Recognition was presented to Annie's four sons, Charlie, Baptiste, Larry and August, during a ceremony at the Lutsel K'e Community Hall on April 26. Her body rested there until her funeral and burial at the mouth of the Snowdrift River on April 27. She was laid to rest next to her husband Jerome, who died in 1968.

According to Felix Lockhart, chief of the Lutsel K'e Dene Council, the community hall was completely full during the ceremony.

Besides members of Annie's own community, friends and family members travelled on chartered flights from Yellowknife, Fort Smith, Fort Resolution and other communities to honour the respected elder.

Lockhart said Annie was very vocal at Dene council meetings and annual meetings of the tribal council.

"She also made a lot of contributions, especially to women. A lot of women were taught by her to sew and tan moosehides and caribou hides," said Lockhart.

She also told many traditional stories that were passed on through the community.

"She will be very much missed," Lockhart said.

"Annie was a very strong, traditional woman," said Rachel Abel, manager of health programs at the Lutsel K'e Health Centre.

"She was very strong in her language, she spoke Chipewyan almost unilingually and she believed in teaching and passing the language down," said Abel.

Baptiste Catholique, one of Annie's sons, said after his father died, his mother took it upon herself to teach her sons how to chop wood, snare rabbits, fish, and survive off the land.

"She told us in the future when we get a family of our own that we would have to support them. She said that she wouldn't be with us all the time so we had to learn those things," Baptiste said.

"It's true, everything that she said," he said. He now has a wife, three children and a grandchild.

He said he will always remember the values and traditions his mother taught him.

And not only was she a role model for her family, but she also gave everything she could to everyone around her.

Baptiste said his mother would always greet everyone with a smile and a hug, especially children.

He recalls visiting his mother every morning as she would sit at the table drinking tea and munching on food.

"I really miss that. She was a very sweet woman. I'll never forget her," he said.