The Dogrib Birchbark Canoe Project, begun in the spring of 1996, was a collaborative effort to build a birchbark canoe in the style of the traditional Tlicho (Dogrib) canoes. The Canoe Project was an extension of a larger effort to complete heritage resource inventories for two Tlicho traditional canoe routes. During the course of the trail inventories, the remains of 30 birchbark canoes were located and recorded, providing an indication of the important role the birchbark canoe played in traversing the Tlicho region. Stakeholders in the project included the Dogrib Treaty 11 Council, the Dogrib Divisional Board of Education, the elders of Gameti (Rae Lakes) and Behchoko (Rae), the Rae/Edzo Friendship Centre and the Archaeology Section of the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre. The canoe's design was based on a similar birchbark canoe built by Chief Jimmy Bruneau in the late 1960's. All efforts were made to document the process involved, whether on video, audiocassette or on paper. The project involved six elders (Joe and Julie Mackenzie, Paul and Elizabeth Rabesca, Nick and Annie Black) from Behchoko (Rae). Six students from Chief Jimmy Bruneau School in Behchoko (Edzo) participated as well. Tom Andrews, Subarctic Archaeologist at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, coordinated the project from Yellowknife. Don Gardner, a professional canoe builder from Calgary assisted with the project. With the help of the "Canada-Northwest Territories Co-operation Agreement for Aboriginal and Official Languages Program" administered by Parks Canada, broadcast-quality videocassettes of the first feature-length birchbark canoe production were completed in early 1997.
George Blondin was born at Horton Lake, north of Great Bear Lake, in May 1922, the son of Edward Blondin. In his early years George worked as a guide for surveyors on the Canol Pipeline project, and at Port Radium as well as a woodcutter, trapper and hunter. He later moved his family to the Yellowknife region and worked for Giant Mine. He served as Chief of the Deline (Fort Franklin) Band and as Vice President of the Dene Nation. He worked with the Dene Cultural Institute and wrote for northern newspapers, sharing political opinions and traditional stories, for which he was well known. George wrote several books on the Sahtu Dene, traditional medicine, and traditional stories, including 'When the World was New' (1990), 'Yamoria the Law Maker' (1997), and 'Trail of the Spirit: The Mysteries of Dene Medicine Power Revealed' (2006). In 1990, George Blondin was awarded the Ross Charles Award for Native journalism, and in 2003 he was appointed a Member of Order of Canada for his work towards preserving the heritage of his people. George Blondin was married to Julie Blondin and had seven children: Evelyn, Ted, John, Tina, Georgina (Gina), Bertha and Walter (died in infancy). George died in 2008.
John Blondin was born in Deline (Fort Franklin), Northwest Territories on March 6, 1959 to George and Julie Blondin. His family moved to Yellowknife in the early 1960s where John attended school. After his graduation, John traveled to Wales to attend Atlantic College. Upon his return to Canada, he completed a degree in linguistics at the University of Montreal. John was active in the theatre and art communities. He founded the Native Theatre Group and directed several productions of the "Association franco-culturelle de Yellowknife" (French Cultural Association). Much of his theatrical work focused on the telling of Dene legends, many of which he learned from his father, noted Elder, writer and storyteller George Blondin. He also performed in original Native theatrical and dance performances in Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. He did not formally study photography, however, he enjoyed it as a hobby. He died on April 27, 1996 at the age of 37.
At the founding conference of the Native Council of Canada in March, 1972, sixteen Metis from the Northwest Territories established a steering committee with the aim of forming a Metis interest group in the Northwest Territories. The Metis Association of the Northwest Territories headquarters was established in Hay River in April, 1972. The Association's membership at that time numbered 7700. After a period of financial instability, the Metis Association moved to Yellowknife in late-1973 better able to meet its administrative and program requirements established at the first annual General Assembly held earlier that year. The original focus of the Association was on self-help programs at the community level, as well as the development of leadership among northern Metis. After the move to Yellowknife, the focus shifted to establishing Metis title to land and resources, gradually aligning themselves with the Indian Brotherhood of the NWT. Programs run by the Association helped to repair homes in the Western Arctic, raise awareness of drug and alcohol issues in the communities, and as part of its cultural program, produce a history of the Metis entitled "Our Metis Heritage" in 1976. At this time, the Metis Association also managed the health claims of its members. Although not negotiating land claims directly, the Metis Association provided administrative support to the Indian Brotherhood of the NWT and some of its members sat on the Joint Dene Land Claims Negotiating Committee alongside the Indian Brotherhood (later called the Dene Nation). In 1988, the Metis Heritage Association was formed from the existing Metis Association, handling cultural affairs of the Metis of the NWT. The Metis Association of the NWT changed its name to the Metis Nation in the early 1990s. The Metis Nation closed its Yellowknife head office in the summer of 2001.
Paul Vaudrack, AKA Voudrach or Vaudrak, (1890-1975) was born Paul Voedjin Tchiatsell in March 1890 at Tsiigehtchic [Arctic Red River]. His father was Simon Voedzjin (1851-1895) and his mother was Noelia Thell’ya (1862-1901). Paul had three sisters and one brother.
At the time of his father’s death in 1895, Paul and his family lived with a group of people who lived on the land. Until his mother’s death six years later, the family travelled with this group of people between Dawson, Yukon and Arctic Red River, N.W.T. In 1903, Paul met the priest at Arctic Red River who recommended that Paul, his younger sister and brother go to the Mission in Fort Providence. At Fort Providence, Paul went to school and worked for the Mission for three years. He learned primarily French and later English at school. In 1906, Bishop Breynat asked Paul to move to Fort Resolution with him where Paul worked at the Mission sawmill for two years. Paul left Fort Resolution at age 18 to live on the land, and went back to the mountains to hunt for big game with a group of people.
Paul married Magdeleine Kotchile (? – 1932?) in Fort Good Hope. They had three children, one of whom died in infancy. Paul Vaudrack died at the Inuvik hospital on August 21, 1975.
Paul was a storyteller, recounting and recording many traditional Gwich’in, Slavey and Athapaskan stories. He recorded stories with researchers Hiroko Sue and Janice (Hurlbert) March in 1961, which were published by Ronald Cohen and Helgi Osterreich in 1967 in the National Museum of Canada’s Contributions to Ethnology V: Bulletin 204. As well, he recorded stories through the 1960s with Father Rene Fumoleau.
The Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs, created in 1995, was a central agency that supported the Minister Responsible for Aboriginal Affairs and the Executive Council. The Ministry managed and coordinated the participation of the Government of the Northwest Territories in all lands, resources and self-government negotiations. It was also responsible for negotiating and developing implementation plans and providing strategic advice on the Aboriginal and Intergovernmental Relations of the Northwest Territories. Advice on national and territorial Aboriginal relations was also provided. There were five divisions within the Ministry. In addition to internal management responsibilities, the Directorate provided strategic advice and support to the Minister and Executive Council on political and constitutional development and on relations with Aboriginal leaders and organizations both within the Northwest Territories and nationally. The prime functions of the Negotiations Division were to manage the GNWT participation and to represent the GNWT interest in the negotiation of lands, resources and self-government agreements. The Policy & Communications Division developed public and internal policies and legislative proposals for the Ministry, provided advice to the Minister and Deputy Minister and developed instructions and mandates for the GNWT's participation in negotiation agreements and implementation plans. This Division also provided support to GNWT negotiators, participated in central agency reviews of legislative proposals and was responsible for overall Ministry communications. The Implementation Division negotiated implementation plans and managed and monitored the implementation of settled lands, resources and self-government agreements. The prime function of the Devolution Negotiations Division was the negotiation of Devolution and Resource Revenue Sharing Agreements with the Federal Government and the Aboriginal Summit. The Devolution Division led the Government of the Northwest Territories’ (GNWT) participation in these negotiations, coordinating the input from other Departments and the preparation of negotiating instructions.
From 1905 to 1967, the administration of the Northwest Territories was the responsibility of several different federal departments. From 1922 to 1953, various versions of the Northwest Territories and Yukon Branch were administered by the Department of the Interior (1922-1936) and the Department of Mines and Resources (1937-1953). During these years, this administration was run almost exclusively from Ottawa. In 1953, the branch concerned with the administration of the Northwest Territories, known at that time as the Northern Administration and Lands Branch, transferred to the Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources. The Northern Administration and Lands Branch expanded rapidly in the 1950s and in 1959 it was renamed the Northern Administration Branch. This coincided with a reorganization of the responsibilities handled by the Branch. The responsibility for northern affairs was divided into six divisions: 1) Territorial Division; 2) Education Division; 3) Industrial Division; 4) Welfare Division; 5) Resources Division and 6) Engineering Division. In conjunction with this reorganization, a program of decentralization of the field operations of the Northern Administration Branch was enhanced by the creation of two new regional offices. The Administrator of the Mackenzie was stationed in Fort Smith, while the Administrator of the Arctic, stationed in Ottawa, was responsible for the Districts of Keewatin and Franklin, as well as Inuit affairs in arctic Quebec. In 1966, the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development supplanted the Department of Northern Affairs and Natural Resources. In 1967, Yellowknife was established as the capital of the Northwest Territories and the transfer of responsibilities from the Northern Administration Branch to the Government of the Northwest Territories began. The transfer rendered the Northern Administration Branch obsolete and during 1968, the Territorial Relations Branch replaced it.
The federal Department of Mines and Resources was established on June 23, 1936 with the amalgamation of the Department of Mines, Department of the Interior, and the Department of Immigration and Colonization. The new department was divided into five branches: Mines and Geology; Lands, Parks, and Forests; Indian Affairs; Immigration; and Surveys and Engineering. In 1950, the name was changed to the Department of Mines and Technical Surveys with some of the department's functions absorbed by the newly created Department of Resources and Development.
The mission statement of the Native Women's Association of the NWT was as follows: To provide training and education programs for native women in the Western Arctic, so we can function more effectively in areas that affect our lives economically, socially, educationally, emotionally, culturally and politically. Management of the Association is a partnership between the Board and Headquarters staff. There are members on the Board representing six regions in the Western Arctic. Staff activities are managed through an Executive Director who reports to the President of the Association. In keeping with the practice of healthy leadership, Board members, staff and delegates of the Association are required to abide by a Sobriety Clause. The Native Women's Association was responsible for the delivery of two main programs: a Training Institute recognized by the Department of Education, Culture and Employment of the Government of the Northwest Territories, and the Victim Services Program. The Training Institute offered a program from August to May in Yellowknife. This included adult basic education, literacy training, life skills training, leadership training and practical assistance. The community-based Yellowknife Victim Services Program used a pool of trained volunteers to offer support, assistance, information and referral service to victims. The program was managed by a full time coordinator. Volunteers would accompany victims to the hospital, explain the workings of the criminal justice system and assist victims in court. The Native Women's Association of the NWT and the Status of Women Council collaborated for several years to ensure that women had input into the development of a new constitution for the NWT. In 1994, this included a women's constitutional conference. In 1995, a report entitled A global and Western NWT Perspective on Guaranteed Representation Based on Gender Equality was produced.
The Native Communications Society of the Western Northwest Territories was incorporated on August 16, 1974. The objectives of the society were to promote and develop communications between the communities of the western Northwest Territories, train Dene, Inuit, and Metis in multi-media, and strengthen the self-image of Indigenous people in the Northwest Territories. The objectives were accomplished through the publication of the Native Press newspaper, the production and broadcasting of radio programming, the establishment of the radio station CKNM, and facilitating media training workshops.
The Native Communications Society (NCS) superseded the communication unit of the Indian Brotherhood of the Northwest Territories (IB-NWT). The communication unit was managed by Brian Thompson who was hired as a consultant by IB-NWT president James Wah-shee. The IB-NWT’s communications unit created the Native Press in 1971 as a newspaper dedicated to examining issues related to the western Northwest Territories from an Indigenous perspective. It superseded the publication of the Brotherhood Report that had been published by the IB-NWT in 1969. Owing to its perceived political affiliation with the IB-NWT, the Brotherhood Report’s name was changed to Native Press in 1971. The newspaper evolved into a bi-monthly publication covering political and land developments, community news, legends, and human-interest stores in the western Northwest Territories. In February 1990, the Secretary of State cut core funding to the NCS and ended the Native Communications Program in Canada. To become more competitive and increase its revenue stream, beginning in June 1990, the Native Press became a weekly newspaper. NCS board of directors approved the sale of Native Press to DM Communications Limited – a company owned by NCS - in the fall of 1990. Hoping to attract new funding and increase its audience, DM Communications changed the newspaper’s name from Native Press to The Press Independent in November 1990. The Press Independent ran into financial difficulties in December 1992 when the Secretary of State again cut funding to the NCS. In March 1993, staff of The Press Independent proposed a buyout to the NCS board but it was not approved. The Press Independent announced on March 19, 1993 an Agreement in Principle was in place to transfer ownership of the paper to Vi Beck of Type Unlimited. The archives of the Native Press, which included over 200,000 photographs and a full set of newspapers, was kept by the NCS. To protect the name Native Press, Dorothy Chocolate and Lee Selleck registered the name with the Government of the Northwest Territories. On April 28, 1993 The Press Independent became The Northern Star, which ceased publication in 1994. The Native Press returned briefly in fall 1996 as a renewed effort between NCS and the Dene Nation.
The idea for the Native Communications Society of the Western Northwest Territories was conceived in February 1974. The IB-NWT communications unit was notified by the Secretary of State of its ineligibility for funding due to its status as a branch of a political organization. The IB-NWT brought together members from the Committee for Original People’s Entitlement, Tree of Peace, and the Metis Association of the N.W.T. to form the NCS. In August 1974 an interim board of directors was selected and the first NCS Annual General Assembly was held in Fort Providence in May 1976. In 1982, Dene Nation formed the Dehcho Gonde Communications Society. At a Dene Nation Assembly in Fort Simpson, a proposal was put forth to merge NCS and Dehcho Gonde Communications Society. At the NCS’s Annual General Assembly in October 1982 the merger was not approved. In 1983, the NCS announced that the amalgamation was unfeasible as the Dehcho Gonde Communications Society was a political entity and risked losing its federal funding.
The Native Communications Society’s early administrative structure from 1975-1982 was composed of a six-member board of directors, an executive and assistant director, and one delegate from a list of 32 communities in the western Northwest Territories. The NCS had three production departments consisting of a video department, newspaper (Native Press), and a radio department. Owing to financial limitations, Native Press remained the sole fully operational department from 1975-1982. In preparation for its radio department, the NCS began a three-year training program for its radio broadcasters in 1982. By December 1985, construction began on the radio studio and in January 1986 the radio station broadcasted to 12 communities from Yellowknife at 101.9 FM. The official opening of the NCS radio station CKNM-FM took place during the NCS General Assembly in late 1986. In 1990, the NCS moved into the new NWT Communications Centre with a television and radio studio. The newspaper department closed with the sale of The Press Independent to Vi Beck of Type Unlimited in April 1993. The newspaper department briefly returned in 1996 but was subsequently shut down. The NCS continues to operate today and manages NCS Productions Ltd. and CKLB Radio.
Since 1975, the executive directors and CEOs of the Native Communications Society have included Mike Canadian, Raymond Yakeleya, Margaret Cook, Cheeko Desjarlais, Nancy Austin, Barry Ward, Bren Kolson, Dorothy Cumming, J.C. Catholique, Marine Devine, Barry Zellen, Les Carpenter, and Rob Ouellette.
A former Native Press staffer, Roy Dahl printed a few issues in 2009. Roy Dahl with his son Zach Dahl acquired the name and business license in 2017 and began to print monthly issues of the Native Press.
Nap Norbert was born in Tsiigehtchic (Arctic Red River) on January 29, 1917. His parents were Manual and Caroline Norbert. Nap had two sisters, Agnes and Mary Anne, and one brother Harry. Nap's mother, Caroline married Louis Cardinal after Manual Norbert died. Caroline and Louis had four children, Sonny, Billy, Alma and Rose Cardinal. Nap's stepfather, Louis Cardinal had six children with his first wife Catherine Firth: Agnes (Cardinal) Blake of Fort McPherson, Ethel Cardinal, Violet (Cardinal) Jerome of Inuvik, Rudolph, Alice Margaret and adopted son John. Nap attended school in Fort Providence for approximately five years, returning home to Tsiigehtchic in 1929. He married Mary Norman in 1940 and they had seven children: Henry, Caroline, Bertha, Agnes, Archie, Lucy and Annie Rose. After Mary Norbert died, Nap married Annie (Moses) Niditchie of Tsiigehtchic in 1952. Annie and Nap had three children: James, Lawrence and Dennis. Nap Norbert spent approximately 15 years working on boats operating on the Mackenzie River. During this period, he spent some time working on the "Pelican Rapids", a Hudson's Bay Company boat. During the winter, Nap earned a living as a hunter and trapper. Nap Norbert passed away in 200[3?].
In 1972, a representative of the Metis Association of the NWT spent several weeks at the Public Archives of Canada looking for documentation related to native land claims. The results of this research were kept at the Association's headquarters in Yellowknife and proved helpful when inquiries were made about Metis history. A secondary result of this research was the acknowledgement that other vital documents were likely to be available in other archival repositories across Canada. In 1975, the Metis Association of the NWT, with the help of funding from a variety of sources, began the Metis History Project. This project assembled a collection of photocopies, printed books, photographs and oral history recordings related to the history of the Metis in the Northwest Territories. At the 1988 Annual General Assembly delegates approved the creation of the Metis Heritage Association as a cultural arm with charitable organization status. In 1992, the Metis Heritage Association carried out a further series of interviews with elders. The interviews were to form the basis of a book on Metis history in the NWT. In 2001 the Metis Nation and Metis Heritage Association ceased operations and their remaining materials were donated to the NWT Archives.
Sam Lennie was born on August 29, 1928 at Horton River, NT and Margaret Lennie was born on November 25, 1930 at Coppermine (Kugluktuk), NT. They currently reside in Inuvik, NT.