M.S. Naidoo remembers his encounter with Nelson Mandela.

Naidoo, a retired Yellowknife educator, saw him in person speaking at a conference in South Africa.

“My hairs just bristled on my arms. I couldn’t believe I was seeing this person walking through this crowd."

Naidoo grew up in South Africa and lived in segregation because of his Indian background.

He says he has always looked towards Mandela for inspiration.

The former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela fought to end apartheid in his country, both before and after spending 27 years in prison for his beliefs.

Marie Wilson is a commissioner with the Truth and Reconciliation commission of Canada.

She trained journalists in South Africa in the 1990s as that country was making the transition to democracy.

She says black South Africans and Aboriginal people in the North have both experienced a form of colonialism.  

“It took the engagement of a wider society. In the case of the North, it took people to engage from Southern Canada, to engage and debate about land rights and northern rights. In the case of South Africa, it took the whole world to engage in discussion about the wrongness of apartheid."

Wilson was in South Africa around the time its Truth and Reconciliation process was starting to grapple with the legacy of apartheid, and the violence and oppression that accompanied it.

Dene elder Francois Paulette says Mandela taught him about discipline and compassion.

“It’s something that I've been working on,” Paulette says. “To have compassion towards people that hurt you, and that are harming mother Earth.

“To have compassion, that's extraordinary, and this man Mandela had this. He was gifted to have that. It must have resonated all over the world, because people have travelled the world to come and visit him.”