It is Almost 30 years Since he went into the Spirit World. I visualize him walking down Franklin Avenue in Fort McMurray, Alberta. Thirty years, seems as though it was yesterday.

My dad as a young boy

 Memory of him is etched in my mind. Imagery that stirs precise emotions within me. I see my dad, Baba, is what we called him. He was a warm, generous and a wise man. He loved going for walks. He was a hunter and trapper. He didn’t speak English, just Denesuline, our traditional language. 

He was a man of medium build; his movements gave the impression of true strength and confidence. Head held high. His hair thick, cut very short and was snow white. His eyes, clear, dancing, thoughtful. Steady was his stride, not too fast and not too slow, with his hands firmly held behind his back he walked.  

What might he be thinking as he is walking along in this city?
Might he be thinking, how the afternoon summer sun feels hot, and the slight breeze feels soothing? 

Might be he remembering, years earlier in another in simpler times when he took some of his younger children to Holy Angels Residential school playground. Taking them there to play on the swings and to read at the priest’s house in the summer?  He had nineteen children, sixteen surviving. He had ten sons and six daughters, and grandchildren who he raised along with his own.  He never attended residential school.

Might he be thinking how easy it was to make his children happy by just taking them for a walk on the dusty gravel road in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta in Doghead. Back in the day  in the early 70s very few if any cars whizzing by, but he might hear in the distance the trotting of hoofbeats that he knew belonged to Leo, the waterman’s horses. Perhaps if it were a Monday, Wednesday, or a Friday he might have heard the PWA jet overhead. Might he be thinking, as he walked silently, his children softly murmuring and laughing amongst themselves that his life just could not get any more perfect.

Might he be thinking of a time and place where his spirit was truly free.  (Luezan Tué) where the birds singing, and wildlife are so near you can hear them in the bushes?  

Our Traditional lands, Caswell Lake in Saskatchewan

Perhaps he was thinking about how clear the water is that you can see the huge trout swimming in lake? Where he could hear the sound of waves gently rolling in and see the forming of small indentations on the perfectly white beautiful sand dunes, which was as inviting as any sandy beaches of distant tropical lands. In the distance the sound of the loons, which provides him useful information about the activity around the lake. The sky a bright blue and peppered with cumulus clouds. 

Simply beautiful.  A time never forgotten. 

My dad and brother Fred
Algar Towers

While he enjoyed the warmth of the sun, feeling the cool afternoon breeze, what might he be thinking? 

Is he remembering sitting by an open fire, enjoying fresh brewed  mint tea, and freshly made Bannock, as he listened to stories told by his old friend Doc Holiday? Is he recalling that he too told some of his own stories, surely his were more outrageous, and yes, he knows they were.  Indeed, he was a great storyteller. He was also a very cultural man who lived in harmony with nature. He never gossips or said a bad word about anyone. 

What might he be thinking while he walked in the hot summer heat? 

Perhaps, about the perfect little log house he built out of nearby trees for his family in Doghead.   And how when he entered the porch, he had to struggle with the many pelts hanging overhead drying. Those days before the BC Bennett Dam diminished the water and emptied the marshes, when trapping provided a generous bounty for the community. 

As soon as he entered warm air from the wood stove hits his face and the smell of cooking stirred up the hunger he had been suppressing.  Someone would shout: “Close the door!” and he wrangled with all the shoes and boots in his way, but he finally gets the door shut. He looked for a place to put the results from a successful trip to the trapline. You know, he was a good trapper and provided well for all these children and often had enough to share with the community.  Might he have been thinking how good it felt being in the warmth and security of home with his wife and family after days out on the cold trapline? Could life be more perfect! 

“Town bound”, he would say. 

What might he be thinking, as he walked down Franklin Avenue In Fort McMurray that hot summer afternoon? 

Had he been thinking of how things are changing so quickly? Changes that he knew were coming, but, worried that they may not all be good. Was he thinking about the future for his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren?  Was he thinking, if there was one thing, he could teach them would be that they should strive to be happy, kind, educated, and good strong Dene. Perhaps most of all to accept the simple things in life, like being completely content knowing that you’ve done your best. 

But if truth be told, I believe he was walking in silent meditation being one with the environment, being present. To know him, is to know that he was an integral part of nature and was the happiest when in his element.  His element was anywhere he was. He was at home anywhere. A man who was a strong silent type. A man of few words. Ironically, when you caught him in the mood for storytelling, you better be prepared to stay awhile. 

He was a good man our Baba, Isidore Deranger Denesuline Nene. (Djeskelni) (Deranger) We never knew his exact   birth date, but he was baptized when he was  already a teenager in 1909,  and  went to the spirit world in  -1992

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