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Tlicho's Arrowmaker dies

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services

Snare Lakes (Dec 05/05) - One of the driving forces behind the historic Tlicho land claim and self-government agreement has died.

Alexis Arrowmaker passed away Nov. 25 in an Edmonton hospital, where he was being treated for an intestinal condition. He was 85.

NNSL Photo/graphic

Alexis Arrowmaker: one of the driving forces behind the Tlicho land claim and self-government died on Nov. 25 - photo courtesy of the Tlicho Government

Arrowmaker was grand chief of the Dogrib First Nations in the 1970s and later chief of the Dogrib-Rae Band and the Snare Lakes Band.

From 1992 onward, he was special advisor to the Dogrib chiefs and negotiating team.

Current Tlicho Grand Chief George Mackenzie says Arrowmaker played a "major role" in the land claim and self-government agreement, which came into force this past summer.

Mackenzie said everyone involved wanted Arrowmaker's opinions, calling him the anchor of the whole process. "We always waited for him to speak."

The grand chief notes Arrowmaker was the nephew of Chief Monfwi, who signed Treaty 11 in the 1920s, and had Monfwi's wisdom passed on to him. "He had a lot of wisdom and insight into the way self-government should look," Mackenzie says.

The grand chief says it was good Arrowmaker lived to see the Tlicho land claim and self-government agreement come into effect. "He was very proud of Tlicho self-government."

Arrowmaker was a great political leader, but also led his people by being an all-around person - spiritual and humble, but forceful when needed Mackenzie says.

John B. Zoe, the chief negotiator for the land claim and self-government agreement and current executive officer of the Tlicho Government, also has high praise for Arrowmaker's impact, noting he pushed to get the best out of people.

"He was somebody to be reckoned with, because he was harsh in his words in a positive way," Zoe recalls, explaining Arrowmaker was critical to make a person "go beyond what your abilities were."

Like Mackenzie, Zoe says everyone looked to Arrowmaker for his opinion. "Nobody would move until he was satisfied."

Zoe even admits to being somewhat scared of what Arrowmaker would say, but learned from the experience. "Now, I'm not afraid of anybody any more."

Arrowmaker was also a founding member of the Indian Brotherhood, which later became the Dene Nation.

In Wekweti, Alexis Arrowmaker school is named in his honour.