Dene heroes and their contributions to their communities continue to be celebrated by Sahtu youth in the latest edition of the Dene Heroes of the Sahtu book series.
Volume three of the collection was released in December and features a number of stories written by over 30 Sahtu students aged 10 to 18, and even some elders who wanted to share their own experiences growing up in the region.
“I think that every day, we have heroes all around us. We shouldn’t be always looking to other people to look up to all the time. We have pride in ourselves and we should be able to look within our communities, within our people,” said David Codzi, president of the Ayoni Keh Land Corporation.
Codzi, who serves as the series’ spokesperson, said that heroes commemorated in this year’s edition consist of political figures, elders and everyday individuals who go out of their way to help those in need.
“Some of the stories were one to three pages long. Some of them are writing about their life, residential schools, up until now…Things that they feel like their family members and the people should know because it’s not just their story, it’s our story as well that was impacted,” said Codzi.
After the success of the first two volumes, the series was awarded the Arctic Inspiration Prize in 2018 and received $100,000. The proceeds helped boost outreach and volume three saw an increase in contributors from all five communities in the Sahtu region.
Codzi said that students can benefit from the classroom-based writing project by going out and having more interaction with their community members and their elders.
“It gets them to look at people who are doing more,” he said.
Codzi added that the series comes as a reaction to the education system’s failure to acknowledge Aboriginal history and the contributions Indigenous people have made to the country.
“We need to have that recognition that we did contribute to what’s the greater society,” he said. “If the youth understand that we did do all these things and did contribute, then maybe they can say that they can do it.”
Award shows will be hosted in each contributing community throughout the month of January where writers will be awarded two copies of the book; one for themselves and the other for the hero that they wrote for.
Copies are limited to the Sahtu region, but Codzi said more books could become available if more communities around the country are willing to adopt a similar project.
“I’ve always been trying to get the curriculum changed to teach more about the Aboriginal impact and how we contributed to the greater society,” he said.
Codzi added that making changes to the education system is an initiative that he’s always been interested in participating in.
“When I was elected as president, the first thing I wanted to do was contribute to the education system. I wanted to do something positive with the youth, instead of waiting for somebody else to do something,” he said.