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A long, proud history

Sara Wilson
Northern News Services
Published Friday, June 22, 2012

Amid the smiling faces - all proudly celebrating Dene culture and history - were Judy Charlo, a Yellowknives Dene member, and Rachel Tambour, who made the trip from Hay River to celebrate with family at the Yellowknife River Thursday afternoon.

NNSL photo/graphic

Judy Charlo, left, and Rachel Tambour enjoy Aboriginal Day celebrations, sponsored by the Yellowknives Dene at the Yellowknife River Thursday afternoon. - Sara Wilson NNSL photo

Reflecting on the 'old-ways' and traditions, Charlo explained how hunting and trapping methods were performed as a small crowd of people intently listened to her stories.

Charlo's 89 years of wisdom is clear, and those around her recognize it.

"If you bought something, you'd share it with others, or you'd send it to another town, because sometimes they didn't have enough," she said.

Learning to write and speak traditional languages are important to Charlo, who recognizes that fewer Dene people are able to fluently speak their language.

"I could listen to her all day," Tambour said as Charlo took a break from reflecting on her youth.

Tambour, who lives in Hay River, is very familiar with the Yellowknives Dene as she and her family made regular trips to visit the community and family.

"Back in the day, our parents used to bring us to different communities in the hopes that we would meet a very fine young fella that was a good hunter and provider for his family," she said. "A lot of Dene people used to do that with their daughters."

Now married, Tambour admits that she "had to find him on her own."

The mother and grandmother supported Charlo's wisdom and advice as she is an advocate for speaking traditional languages in the home.

"It's beautiful and I'm so proud to be who I am today," Tambour said. "I'm grateful that my mother taught me my language. Back when I was born, it was the tail-end of the residential schools, but yet I was still ashamed of who I was as a Dene person. But my mother didn't speak English so I didn't have a choice but to speak my Dene language, and today I'm so grateful."

All Tambours' children and grandchildren can understand her South Slave dialect.

As the ceremony was about the kick off, Tambour reflected on the moment, and the pride that she feels on Aboriginal Day.

"(It's) an honourable day for all aboriginal people throughout Canada, we're finally recognized as who we are - as aboriginal people," she said. "It's about time we're recognized, because we've been through a lot negative stuff in our lives, and we just want to surpass all that stuff and move forward and teach our children to be positive people and be proud of who they are."

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