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Friends, it is heartening to see someone, anyone official, actually, speaking up about needed changes to our education system. We become too bogged-down and sidelined by political infighting, especially involving a new minister who’s expected to toe the ole government line, in spite of her personal views.

In this case we have Dene Nation President Norman Yakeleya reminding us of our former residential and day schools, and how now the concern is if it’s safe at all to send our children to school, period.

Well and good that, but we have to consider the process of change, for once.

The litany of changes needed goes back as far as Contact, 1492, when you think on it.

A recent quote from former Dene National President Stephen Kakfwi really sheds some serious light on the situation. In a 2018 interview on CBC he said that the Dene Nation has not done ‘nothing’ since 1987, three of the regions being out of the picture.

What this means is that you can keep bringing up whatever you want to the Canadian system, which the GNWT is certainly a part of.

All you will ever get back is “we are working on it.”

In other words, the process itself is geared in such a way that our individual concerns have always and will forever be just added to the ole stack, usually left for others down the line to have a look at, if that.

What I mean by using the process, shows up from time to time, by those who know what the system is all about.

In the same issue of News/North is a story of francophones winning yet another court decision on an appeal.

Win or not, people that know how to use the court system at least get their arguments front and centre. As long as you get the funding there are any number of meetings you can have to suggest a change to the government. In the end these are only suggestions, not legal matters to be taken seriously.

When real leaders like Stephen Kakfwi speak, we need to listen.

Then again, in the case of the Dene Nation we have to go back all the way to when it was first set up, to the late Sixties.

The idea then was to stand up to the first Trudeau, when another to-be PM, Jean Chretien, brought out the White Paper, basically for Indians to become your normal Canadian citizen, First Citizens, no less.

That became a national issue, with our Indigenous voices in your face as never before.

When the Dene Nation was first set up our battle should have started with why we automatically lost our treaty rights over education and health, when the government was moved, from Ottawa to Yellowknife.

Instead we got sidelined by a successful attempt, mind you, to stop the pipeline.

The way I see it we have woken up the World to the Dene reality, yes, but have pretty well lost our major battle over Indigenous Rights, from the git-go.

The ‘decapitation’ of the Dene Nation also mentioned by Kakfwi actually started right from the start and by intent. Mahsi, thank you.

Antoine Mountain

Antoine Mountain is a Dene artist and writer originally from Radilih Koe/Fort Good Hope. He can be reached at www.mountainarts.com.

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