For the first time ever, a fire-feeding ceremony has been held as a traditional blessing for safety and a good season for a Canadian Coast Guard vessel about to begin its work on Great Slave Lake and the Mackenzie River.
“This is the first time,” said K’atlodeeche First Nation (KFN) Sub-Chief Doug Lamalice, who conducted the ceremony, along with the KFN Drummers. “This is big for KFN.”
Lamalice told the crew of the Canadian Coast Guard vessel Dumit that KFN was pleased to be invited to offer the fire-feeding ceremony to them and their boat.
“When something like this happens with the town of Hay River, to me it touches my heart because we got acknowledged, and we realize we’re part of the plans that happen around here,” he said. “So when we’re doing this for the first time, to me it’s exciting.”
Lamalice also told the crew about the Dene’s relationship with the Canadian Coast Guard.
“When we were growing up, our parents always told us, ‘Let them be. They’re working hard. Don’t bother them,'” he recalled. “That’s like that all the way up with the Dene people. So things are going to change now. They’re going to start docking and asking people to come visit and say hi. And to me that’s a big thing.”
Lamalice said people in the NWT and Canada have to become closer to each other.
“And when we’re working in a place like this and living in a place like this, we need to work together,” he said. “We can’t work apart from each other. The reserve has Dene people that can teach and work with the land.”
With the fire-feeding ceremony, Lamalice said the Canadian Coast Guard can now proudly say that KFN was part of its program at the beginning stages of the season.
The sub-chief also told the Dumit’s crew that Great Slave Lake has always been considered a powerful spiritual place by the Dene people.
The ceremony was part of the Canadian Coast Guard’s commitment to advancing reconciliation and pursuing a renewed relationship with Indigenous people based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership.
Capt. Garry Koop said he appreciated KFN performing the fire-feeding ceremony for the Dumit.
Koop described inviting KFN to offer the ceremony as an outreach to the community.
“Hopefully, it carries on year after year,” he said. “And we are going to put our hand out to all the communities up the river the same as this and get to know who the people are in all the communities up and down the river.”
Koop said his crew was excited to be part of the fire-feeding ceremony and they look forward to meeting members of communities along the Mackenzie River.
“They’re looking forward to the summer and stopping in some of the communities that we always stop at, but now we’re going to try to get involved a little more than we do,” he said.
Koop noted the vessel’s crewmembers would always meet residents of the communities, but it wasn’t as a part of organized visits.
“We’ll let them know when we’re coming so that they can prepare a little bit,” he explained.
Following the fire-feeding ceremony, the KFN Drummers and other members of the First Nation were invited onboard the Dumit for a tour.