Building on tradition

Antoine Mountain
Guest columnist
Monday, August 3, 2009

Previous columns 

Friends, I would like to add a few words in support of the Birchbark Canoe Building Project sponsored by the GNWT's Industry Tourism and Investment Department in Liidlii Kue/Fort Simpson.

There really is nothing quite like seeing the faces of young people who have worked on something of their traditional culture together, like this useful canoe, and to find that they have followed through on an original commitment to do so.

From my own experience, I find the hardest part of trying to motivate the youth in our smaller communities is in dealing with our apathy. People having lost our Dene sense of purpose in life. This is definitely not the fault of young people, who keep looking to their elders to come up with something for them to do, period.

Often we are too busy with our regular jobs or our alcohol and gambling addictions to pay any attention to what the youth are wanting to do or are capable of doing. I also find great comfort in the fact that more young people are now eager to take on rolls of leadership and are willing to do whatever it takes to face the future in a good way.

So, and it is good to also note the government is willing to go all the way in trying to preserve our Northern cultures, in whatever forms they take. This Canoe Building Project does definitely float on into that category and beyond.

There was a day, and not all that long ago either, when the canoe was the only way to get around in the North, and the rivers were our highways. There are people in the Delta too, who are busily involved in getting canoeing back into our regular way of life.

Finally, it gives me much hope that there are people like Guy Erasmus who are in position to help keep these traditions like the Birchbark Canoe Building Project going. We in the Sahtu are definitely looking forward to and ready to do our own youth-oriented activity like this one, too!

Mahsi Cho.

- Antoine Mountain is a Dene artist and writer originally from Radilih Koe'/Fort Good Hope. He can be reached at