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History Native American

We Remember the Coming of the White Man

By Elizabeth Yakeleya, Sarah Simon and other Sahtú and Gwich’in Dene Elders

by (author) Elizabeth Yakeleya, Sarah Simon, Mary Wilson, Joe Blondin, John Blondin, Isadore Yukon, Peter Thompson, Jim Sittichinli, Johnny Kaye & Andrew Kunnizzi

edited by Sarah Stewart

foreword by Raymond Yakeleya

afterword by Colette Poitras

Durvile Publications
Initial publish date
Apr 2020
Native American
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2020
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2021
    List Price

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A work in progress since the 1970s, We Remember the Coming of the White Man chronicles the history of the Dene People in the extraordinary time of the early 20th century. Chapters are transcripts of oral histories of ten Elders and revolve around their recollections of the early days of fur trading, missionaries and the 1918 flu pandemic; dismay about the way oil and uranium discoveries and pipelines were handled on their land; and the emotional and economic fallout of the signing of Treaty 11. Bundled with the book is a version on DVD of Raymond Yakeleya’s stunning 1978 film We Remember, with director’s commentary. The book is rich with photographs, and Elders’ stories are in English and Dene Gwich’in language. The audiobook, produced by Leanne Goose and read by Dene, Métis, and Inuvialuit narrators, is available (May 15, 2020). For more info, excerpts from the book and film clips, Dene First Nation Elders in the book are Joe Blondin, John Blondin, Elizabeth Yakeleya, Mary Wilson, Isadore Yukon, Peter Thompson, Jim Edwards Sittichinli, Sarah Simon, Johnny Kaye, and Andrew Kunnizzi.

About the authors

Elizabeth Yakeleya's profile page

Sarah Stewart is a physiotherapist who lives in Victoria, British Columbia.

Sarah Stewart's profile page

Raymond Yakeleya's profile page

Colette Poitras' profile page

Sarah Simon's profile page

Mary Wilson has a longstanding interest in learning and communication for social change. She has worked for two decades as a facilitator, instructor, researcher, and instructional designer, and holds a Ph.D. in education. As a student of Buddhism, Mary is fascinated by the Boddhisatvas — metaphorical enlightened beings who embody wisdom, compassion, and practice. She sees the combination of wisdom, compassion, and practice as central to learning, and central to our collective efforts to live in harmony on our finite planet. An active participant in her Gabriola Island, BC community, Mary lives with her partner, her 92-year-old mother, and several critters. She and her partner are simultaneously caring for her mom, restoring a ramshackle island home, developing a permaculture food forest, and building an engineless catamaran.

Mary Wilson's profile page

Joe Blondin's profile page

John Blondin (March 6, 1960â??April 27, 1996) was a talented dancer, graphic artist and founder of a Native theatre group. Working through a museum education outreach program at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, John celebrated the Dene culture by performing stories that he had learned from his father George Blondin (1940â??2008). The Legend of Caribou Boywas one of Johnâ??s favourite stories.

John Blondin's profile page

Isadore Yukon's profile page

Peter Thompson is associate professor in the School of Indigenous and Canadian Studies at Carleton University.

Peter Thompson's profile page

Jim Sittichinli's profile page

Johnny Kaye's profile page

Andrew Kunnizzi's profile page

Excerpt: We Remember the Coming of the White Man: By Elizabeth Yakeleya, Sarah Simon and other Sahtú and Gwich’in Dene Elders (by (author) Elizabeth Yakeleya, Sarah Simon, Mary Wilson, Joe Blondin, John Blondin, Isadore Yukon, Peter Thompson, Jim Sittichinli, Johnny Kaye & Andrew Kunnizzi; edited by Sarah Stewart; foreword by Raymond Yakeleya; afterword by Colette Poitras)

My dad found the oil in 1912. He was a pilot with Johnny Barens on the steamboat Distributor, that the Hudson Bay ran from Smith to Tuk. That is how he knew about white man’s ways. If he had lived it would have been recognized that he was the one who discovered the oil. But after it was shipped out he died and we never heard anything more about it.

In 1918 I was at school and Sister Mary spoke to me. “You know where your grandfather was living? That's where they are drilling for oil. Boys from Providence, Simpson, Resolution have come down by dog team to stake claims.”

We still had cabins there where we used to live some of the time. When the white trappers who used to go along the Mackenzie River asked my uncle to lend them one of those houses he always did. They would stay there for a year.

In the fall of 1924 when we went to our cabins everything was smashed. Nothing was left. I feel so bad about it. We thought the oil company might do something but they didn't. They say the white man found the oil but it's not true.

Elizabeth Yakeleya

Editorial Reviews

"Our traditional knowledge is recorded in the stories of our ancestors since time immemorial. In this book, you will read our oral history and traditions that are our (Dene) parables, used to guide ourselves and our People."— Dene National Chief Norman Yakeleya

“With rare mastery of his film-making craft, Dene story-teller Raymond Yakeleya carries on in this book, bringing a former and still ever-present world of wolf, bear and raven ik'o, medicine, magic and mystery to LIFE, to modern meaning.” —Antoine Mountain, Author of From Bear Rock Mountain: The Life and Times of a Dene Residential School Survivor

“All Canadians are enriched by the stories in this collection. By listening to these stories, we take a step together towards reconciliation. We are learning the truth and building an understanding. We are nurturing respect and reciprocity. We are honouring our relations in a good way.”—­COLETTE POITRAS, From the Afterword of We Remember

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