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Deceased elder's knowledge of language will live on

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Published Monday, June 18, 2012

A respected elder in Fort Resolution recently died, but his voice and knowledge of the Chipewyan language will live on for generations.

Lawrence Fabien died on May 12 from a heart attack at the age of 67.

Fabien's voice will be heard for years on the audio portion of the Chipewyan Dictionary, which was created as an initiative of the South Slave Divisional Education Council (SSDEC). The book, which was launched in March, is a major step towards preserving the Fort Resolution dialect of the language.

Fabien was among eight Fort Resolution elders who worked for two years on the project, which culminated with a hardcover book featuring English-to-Chipewyan translations of upwards of 6,000 words and a CD so people can hear how words are pronounced.

"His words were, 'The reason why I'm working on this dictionary is for the children of the community,'" said his sister Angie Fabien, who is the Chipewyan language instructor at Deninu School and was one of the organizers of the dictionary project. It was very important to her brother that the Chipewyan language be kept alive, she said.

Brent Kaulback, assistant superintendent with the SSDEC, praised Fabien's involvement in the project.

"Lawrence made a really vital contribution to the whole 'Chipewyan Dictionary' project," he said.

In particular, Kaulback said Fabien and another elder were instrumental in recording up to 6,000 sound files for the dictionary's accompanying CD, which gives the proper pronunciation of words and demonstrates word usage in phrases and sentences.

The male voice on the CD is that of Fabien. Kaulback said Fabien's extensive knowledge of Chipewyan culture and language was valuable in the dictionary project.

Angie Fabien said her brother was very fluent in the Chipewyan language.

"He was so sincere about this dictionary," she recalled. "He wanted to complete it and he wanted to make sure it was done. He said it was for the community, for the kids to learn the language."

Lawrence Fabien retired two years ago after a 33-year career as a forest firefighter, including many years as a base manager/fire boss. His sister said he enjoyed working as a firefighter

"He loved his job," she said. "He trained a lot of men out on the fire line."

Angie Fabien said her brother was "highly respected" as a firefighter and that could be seen in the number of Environment and Natural Resources employees from around Great Slave Lake who attended his funeral service.

On a personal note, Angie Fabien said her brother was the pillar of the family.

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