stats Making the Business of Life Easier

   Finance globeinvestor   Careers globecareers.workopolis Subscribe to The Globe
The Globe and Mail /
Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels


  This site         Tips

  The Web Google


  Where to Find It

Breaking News
  Home Page

  Report on Business



Subscribe to The Globe

Shop at our Globe Store

Print Edition
  Front Page

  Report on Business




  Arts & Entertainment



   Headline Index

 Other Sections

  Births & Deaths






  Facts & Arguments




  Real Estate









  Food & Dining




  Online Personals

  TV Listings/News

 Specials & Series
  All Reports...


   Where to Find It
 A quick guide to what's available on the site



  Customer Service

  Help & Contact Us



 Web Site

  E-Mail Newsletters

  Free Headlines

  Globe Store New

  Help & Contact Us

  Make Us Home

  Mobile New

  Press Room

  Privacy Policy

  Terms & Conditions


Family ties inform an Indigenous New Wave
Raymond Yakeleya has spent 20 years fulfilling his grandma's deathbed wish that he document 'what happened to our people.' He is among Indigenous people 'taking control of messaging in interesting ways'

Email this article Print this article
Saturday, January 6, 2018 – Page A5

EDMONTON -- Elizabeth Yakeleya was dying. She was Shotah Dene, born, raised, and wilting, in the Northwest Territories.

She had long, grey hair and brown eyes. She spoke softly, but with authority. She had lived a long life. Raymond Yakeleya, her grandson, travelled to Tulita from Edmonton to see her before she slipped away.

He joined her and scores more in the bedroom. When his people die, others come to be with them. Ms. Yakeleya said she wanted to talk to her grandson, alone.

"Everybody left. They closed the door," Mr. Yakeleya said.

"Granny said: 'I want you to do this - to tell the story of what happened to our people.' " Two days later, she passed away.

That was in 1994. Mr. Yakeleya, an accomplished documentary filmmaker, has been working to fulfill her wish ever since. He is telling a story specific to his family and community, yet familiar across the country. It is a critique of the negotiations that produced Treaty 11, the document that shaped what is now the Northwest Territories. It is political. His quest is an effort to preserve his family's traditions and history, although in a way some may find controversial.

And it is an example of how Indigenous peoples in Canada are increasingly telling their own stories - using tools ranging from print to podcasts. Indigenous people documenting their perspectives - whether it be oral histories and traditions or breaking news - are gaining profile.

Mr. Yakeleya's family alleges Imperial Oil took over their homes and storage cabins at Bosworth Creek in the early years of the 20th century. Other folks lost homes and cabins to Imperial, too, according to Mr.

Yakeleya's family. Some were prevented from building new structures. Mr. Yakeleya's ancestors were among those pushed off their traditional hunting grounds, the family says. This meant his predecessors - the Blondin family - and others had to dramatically change their way of life for the worse, the family says. Mr. Yakeleya's family wants him to document their story.

They also want the federal government and Imperial to apologize and compensate them.

Imperial, in a statement, said it has searched its records and is unable to substantiate the allegations.

Mr. Yakeleya's family has spent more than a decade pushing their cause. Indeed, he reckoned he has filmed more than 20 interviews over the 20 years he has been chipping away at this project. He estimated he has about a dozen more interviews to conduct, and wants Imperial's top boss to be among them. Mr.

Yakeleya is now seeking the necessary cash - perhaps from a broadcast partner or government grants - to wrap the interviews and produce the documentary. He said he has spent between $50,000 and $75,000 on the project so far and needs another $75,000 to finish.

The effort - as with others Mr.

Yakeleya has worked on - is about more than television and compensation.

"When you lose a [Dene] person, it is like you're losing a whole Encyclopedia Britannica," he said in the condo he shares with his partner in Edmonton.

"The goal of my work is to preserve our people's records, history, pass it on to the new generation."

Mr. Yakeleya, who is 63, is stretched out on his couch, surrounded by stacks of information. Books. Magazines.

Newspapers. Cartoons clipped out of newspapers. CDs. A VCR.

He has grey hair, bushy grey eyebrows, and black-rimmed glasses. A painting of his Granny hangs on a wall. Her head tilts right, her lips pursed, her skin wrinkled, her hair parted. A necklace with a cross hangs around her neck.

"I want to be an advocate for First Nations," Mr. Yakeleya said.

"They are marginalized, especially in media. Our stories never get out."

Tim Fontaine, a former CBC journalist and now freelance writer who has worked for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, noted this is slowly changing. "[Indigenous] people are taking control of messaging in interesting ways," Mr. Fontaine, who is Anishinaabe, said.

"Writers, podcasters, artists. So much is in [Indigenous] peoples' own hands now."

This progress extends beyond projects that document history through the eyes of Indigenous peoples to include their perspectives on the present and the future.

Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, best known as APTN, is increasingly breaking news and expanding its audience, and its brand is widely recognized across the country. Media Indigena publishes stories online and produces a weekly Indigenous current affairs podcast. The organization is crowdfunded.

Even Indigenous satire is catching on in the mainstream.

Mr. Fontaine, in 2017, founded Walking Eagle News, a site that would be akin to The Beaverton if it focused on Indigenous peoples. The site, too, is crowdfunded.

Sarah Nickel is an Indigenous studies professor at the University of Saskatchewan and specializes in Indigenous oral history and traditions. Audiovisual tools and books, she said, can be effective ways to capture Indigenous oral histories and traditions - but not for all communities and stories.

It isn't uncommon, she said, to find people who argue writing down oral histories and traditions so others can learn by reading is "bastardizing the process." The same argument can be made for film. Some stories are meant only for select audiences.

Others should be shared only at certain times of the year. Intonations and facial expressions influence the meaning of stories and technology may not be able to capture those nuances.

"I would never say, as a blanket statement, that it is okay to capture oral traditions through a documentary," Dr. Nickel said.

"There are communities that would say that's not appropriate."

That does not mean Mr. Yakeleya and others like him are out of line. Mr. Yakeleya, for example, had his Granny's urgent instructions and consent from other family members. Walter Blondin is Mr. Yakeleya's uncle and considers his nephew's work "priceless." But the filmmaker had to earn his own community's trust.

Mr. Yakeleya directed the 28minute documentary called The Last Mooseskin Boat. It is one-part instructional video, one-part adventure film, one-part time capsule.

"It was preserving the culture," Mr. Blondin said of his nephew's 1982 film, which was produced with support from the federal and territorial governments. The National Film Board of Canada played a role. Elders approved. "He showed he had an ability to do these things."

Mr. Yakeleya expects the documentary about his family's experience with Imperial to be about an hour long.

Imperial, in a statement, said has met with the Blondin and Yakeleya families on "multiple occasions over the years to better understand their concerns.

"We have also searched our records and archives and have been unable to substantiate their claims, which would have taken place more than 95 years ago," Jon Harding, a spokesman for Imperial, said in the statement.

The company, which is a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil Corp., said it will touch "base with [the families] to see if there is new information we should consider," Mr. Harding said.

Mr. Yakeleya is determined to meet his Granny's request.

"I gave my word," he said.

Associated Graphic

A painting of Elizabeth Yakeleya, who died in 1994, was done by her grandson Raymond Yakeleya. Inspired by his grandma, he set out to chronicle the struggles of Indigenous people, who 'are marginalized, especially in media. Our stories never get out.'


Dene filmmaker Raymond Yakeleya, seen at home in Edmonton in November, is attempting to preserve his family's traditions and history.


Huh? How did I get here?
Return to Main Drew_Fagan Page
Subscribe to
The Globe and Mail

Email this article Print this article

space  Advertisement

Need CPR for your RSP? Check your portfolio’s pulse and lower yours by improving the overall health of your investments. Click here.


7-Day Site Search

Breaking News

Today's Weather


Rick Salutin
Merrily marching
off to war
Roy MacGregor
Duct tape might hold
when panic strikes

Where Manley is going with his first budget



For a columnist's most recent stories, click on their name below.


Roy MacGregor arrow
This Country
Jeffrey Simpson arrow
The Nation
Margaret Wente arrow
Hugh Winsor  arrow
The Power Game

Rob Carrick arrow
Personal Finance
Drew Fagan arrow
The Big Picture
Mathew Ingram arrow
Brent Jang arrow
Business West
Brian Milner arrow
Taking Stock
Eric Reguly arrow
To The Point
Andrew Willis arrow

Stephen Brunt arrow
The Game
Eric Duhatschek arrow
Allan Maki arrow
William Houston arrow
Truth & Rumours
Lorne Rubenstein arrow
 The Arts

John Doyle arrow
John MacLachlan Gray arrow
Gray's Anatomy
David Macfarlane arrow
Cheap Seats
Johanna Schneller arrow

Murray Campbell arrow
Ontario Politics
Lysiane Gagnon arrow
Inside Quebec
Marcus Gee arrow
The World
William Johnson arrow
Pit Bill
Paul Knox arrow
Heather Mallick arrow
As If
Leah McLaren arrow
Generation Why
Rex Murphy arrow
Japes of Wrath
Rick Salutin arrow
On The Other Hand
Paul Sullivan arrow
The West
William Thorsell arrow

Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels

© 2003 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Help & Contact Us | Back to the top of this page