THE DELINE PROJECT
The original Waterheart documentary was produced by Polar Radio, CBC North and the students of Deline. It is a 45 minute feature that is mainly in the Slavey language.
Charlie: In the beginning, in the legend….
There was this man, his name was Daije’a, and he was a very, very well known shaman. He was a dreamer, he could travel in his dreams and see through visions. One day he had settled fish hooks down by the lake and a big trout busted one of his fish lines. He followed the trout under water and fell asleep and travelled in his dream to the deepest part of the lake where The Waterheart was floating guarded by fish. He saw the largest of the largest Trout facing the heart, guarding it. He saw the surface of the water high above and thousands of little trout floating above. The Great Bear Lake is such an enormous lake and so many fish live in it and this place is where they all the come from. This Tuze’, this Waterheart, we must give it our greatest respect. It gives life to your hearts. The water gives life to fish. It gives life to animals. It gives life to trees. It gives life to you too.
Mahalia: How long time…ago since you lived… Port Radium?
Adrian: 1943. How long is it then…..65 years? We didn't sit around
those days. We had to keep busy. Ha!
Elizabeth Kodakin: It was very beautiful! We used to live in the bush and we used to canoe all over the place. We had outboard motors and we also used paddles to get around. We travelled around all the bays, even though it was far away.
Hilary: In the...bush...how is it?
Elizabeth: It is wonderful in the bush, of course it is! How can even ask such a question???
Jane Quitte: Bella and I...we were using my uncle´s dogteam. We
were just young girls and we were having fun. Chasing each other
around, it was as if we were somebody else! Now we are old and we
wouldn´t even be able to hold one single dog.
Hughie Ferdinand: I was raised in the bush. When my father went
trapping, I use to go with him. And at the same time when my dad took
me, he was teaching me how to hunt and trap. The same for fishing and
other ways of the land.
Kristy Ann: My grandfather Paul Baton he just lived of the land,
hunting and fishing. Life changed at lot at Port Radium when he started
working there. Boats came, airplanes came, a little shop opened up. Our
people even the saw movies for the first time.
Jane: It was just beautiful in that place!!!...with all those big rocky hills. As a young girl I loved it! That’s the time I am talking about, when I was young. It was summer and we played ball with the white people. We needed to eat, that’s why we signed on at Port Radium to cut wood. I never go there anymore. But I can still remember what it was like to work there.
Adrian: That time everybody was working. It wasn´t quiet. A lot of Dene people worked too. That’s all I have to say about that.
Bella: When they closed the mine, that’s when the story came out about
the contamination. Since then our people have been reluctant too go
Adrian Menacho: Port Radium...this was the place where we were
filling up the bags with uranium. We loaded ore onto the deck of the
barge. The dock would get full of these bags with rock. And a lot of our
people worked there for the mine doing that. We would work on the barge and sometimes when the wind got rough, it got really bad. It was a wooden barge and when we came back to the dock, there would be a lot more ore bags waiting for us. We used to work from 6 am to 6 pm, 12 hours a day, shoulder packing the bags. Even though you are strong sometimes you want to give up.
Alfred Taniton: I was working on the barge too. It was a mess there, uranium dust everywhere. I was wearing the same work clothes all day. We would sweep up any uranium that was spilled with brooms and if a bags was torn open, we would shovel up the uranium and put it on a barrel.
Pilot: (shouts) It´s too rough to land there…we can´t land there…we can´t land on the strip…
Alfred: We were never informed of the dangers and the safety issues of what we were working with. For example that we should wash the uranium dust of us and protect ourselves from it. Nobody told us anything. Important information was kept from us…and because of that a lot of our people have suffered greatly.
Pilot: Welcome to Port Radium guys…
Footsteps in snow
Joe Blondin: It´s better to land over here at the greater lake, come in on the other end, it´s soft snow, and really a soft landing and I feel safer away from all that tailing…
Valerie: How was it, back then?
Jane Quitte: We just came in from Sahtu...the Great Bear Lake to Port Radium by plane and that is where we are now, talking. Thank you, we are all doing fine here, we are talking to your taperecorder while we are walking among the rocks. When I see something like this, it makes me feel awful....it is me speaking, Jane. This rocky land looks so nice... even though there were bad rocks around, we did not know they were bad. Instead we were cooking here and eating from the rocks. But now today, when they say they are bad rocks and it is a poisonous rock, I believe them. They are right.
Hughie Ferdinand: Also when the mine was in operation they had an
airstrip on the frozen lake and they would spill garbage on the ice and
just leave it there until the ice melted and it would sink to the bottom of
the lake. Also fuel drums and many other things.
Hughie Ferdinand: There was so much oil leaking around that you had to splash it away to drink the water in that area. I know the company would even throw mine tailings into the lake. At the same time they were doing that they would scoop up fish nearby and give it to us because they said it was good to eat. When we ate the fish, it tasted of fuel. It tasted so bad that we gave it to our dogs to eat.
Elizabeth Kodakin: The yellow dust was all over the rocks when you were out there in the bush.
Alfred Taniton: The wildlife, especially the Caribou reindeer, all the animals travelled through that land. They crossed areas where there are bad rocks, they drank water from these spots and they did not know it. We, the Dene People, who are raised from the land and amongst the wildlife, we could see that the animals looked different, their bodies changed, they were not healthy.
Bernadette Menacho: When the time was right, I would go out in the
bush and pick berries. I looked at the berries and the flowers and they
looked different. We caught rabbits, but the rabbits were so skinny. And
when I cleaned the fish, I noticed that they looked different. When the fish looked like that, I would leave it. I couldn’t eat it.
Hilary: How did she feel about it, when she found out that all that dust and stuff was dangerous?
Diane: How did you feel…
Hilary: How did you feel…
Diane: …when you found out…
Hilary: …when you found out…
Diane: …that the dust was poisonous?
Hilary: …that the dust was poisonous?
Elizabeth: Did she say poisonous dust? Back then I believed it was ok…So to think that, we lived at Somba ke’ for those many years…?!
Bella: The white people never said anything! And I...I brought my two
children to Port Radium, my two daughters Georgina and Helen, when
they were small! I suppose the cancer had already gotten into our
society then and the white people told us nothing...A lot of people worked there and no one was told a thing. Imagine that. Not ONE White man said anything not even the nurse or the doctor, who were there. We never heard anyone speaking about it.
Bella: We did not know about the radioactive contamination back then when we lived in Port Radium. So many people worked over there and a lot of our relatives died because of it. Lots of them died.
Morris Neyelle: At Port Radium, Somba Ké, The Money Rock...a long
time ago...when people used to live by the shores of the water...they
would travel all over to get fish and Caribou. Then one time when the
men were coming back from a fishing trip and came ashore at Somba Ke’, The Money Rock….this is about 200 years ago, it could be longer...I am not sure, but this is how the story goes: It had been said
that no human should sleep on this one island. The elders said that the island had mystical powers and that no one should go ashore there, but for some unknown reason, the men went ashore and slept on the island. One of the elders woke up in the morning and this is what he said: ”I had a dream last night. From this island, something appeared in the sky, it looked like a bird. From this bird, something fell, it looked like a stick and it fell down and hit the ground. A hole was made in the ground and many, many spirits, flew out of it. They seem to be floating up from the underground. But the spirits they looked like they were not people from around here, they were different people… from another land”. This was what he said and people were wondering what he meant about his dream back then.
Mahalia: What do you think about this?
Adrian Menacho: What do I think?
Mahalia: Yes, what do you think, what do you think about it?
Alfred Taniton: From the bad rock, they made a bomb. They dropped it
in this one country, what was its name? Because of that, a lot of people
suffered and died. What did they call it...atomic bomb? That´s what they
called the bomb they made....they made a bomb that was really strong
and dangerous. They dropped it in an area where a lot of people lived.
This is why a lot of people suffered. This is what we are talking
about...we do not want to see or be involved in producing such a rock for that kind of purpose in the future, never again on the shores of Great Bear Lake.
Kirsty Ann: The prophet´s house…it was the first house ever built in
Deliné. Ehtseo Ayahs house. People maybe do come here...pray...pray to
him, pray to everybody, pray for everybody. I never meet him before,
but all the stories that he said…that he told.
Alfred: The prophet´s picture hangs by the road, just down the road...he was the one that talked about all these events happening...
Doris: Is that the prophet people talk about?
Alfred: Grandfather Ayah spoke of many things. He talked about what was going to happen at Somba Ké, at Port Radium. He talked about how other people would abuse the rock and all the turmoil and chaos it would create in their lands. He also mentioned the exploration that is beginning to take place around The Great Bear lake now...those things he predicted are happening now. All the things happening today is what he predicted.
Hilary: Grandmother...did...you...know...Ehtseo Ayah?
Elizabeth Kodakin: Did I know him or do we know of him? Is this what you ask? Ohhh, I knew him very well, of course, he raised me! He took care of me when my father passed away. We lived in Grandfathers house a long, long time ago.
Elizabeth: This book is about the Virgin Mary, it has travelled from far,
far away and it was given to me by my grandfather, Ehtseo Ayah. I
became very sick when I was a child and living with him. Grandfather
would keep books… like this one. With this book a person would regain health. This is what he did for me as a child. I have carried this book with me since my childhood and I still have it....when Grandfather read
aloud from this book, he would take a really long time because he would read it until the end, every word. Imagine being able to read this whole book!!
Hilary´s mother: Sing Go Waiye’, the communion hymn song.
Elizabeth: Go Waiye’...I have a sore throat...
”They are given Communion, they are given communion, Jesus is
sleeping for us …”
Jane: Around 1992 I was diagnosed with cancer. I was really sick. I was
really skinny and weak. But when you get sick and you start worrying a
lot about it, your health will go weaker. To be happy is the only way to
be, it is like a medicine for sickness.
Alfred: Bless our children
Jane: I am thankful today for still being here with my children, even though I do not know what lies ahead of me.
Alfred: Lots of people from here, worked over there. Which is why a lot of people from here contracted the bad sickness. Doris: If they discover minerals or oil in that area, what will we do?
Alfred: Well, today when we are talking about Port Radium, we know
they are prospecting for all kinds of minerals and there are many
different rocks in the area. But it is this one rock, the bad rock, which is
dangerous. If they are going to search for that rock again, we are going to be worried sick about it. The Whiteman who will search for the rock and the people who live here, will have to make an agreement. If we think it is okay, then we will allow them to proceed and if we think it is going to be bad, then we will say no to them. The Lake is something very important for us. The Lake gives life to everything, it has many, many small rivers flowing into it. So, if they are exploring for oil or looking for bad rocks on the land, the water from those areas will eventually come to Great Bear Lake. This is what we want to avoid and this is the reason we want to take good care of the Lake.
Jane: We are not saying this, just for ourselves,
Alfred: It is for the future.
Jane: …we are saying this for our children and their children who will be here long after we are gone. There are the ones we must think about first and that makes us care about the water.
Hughie: Our elders’ stories and wisdom is slowly disappearing. But if we talk nicely to the young people...and if they listen, maybe in the future it will be better.
Alfred: It would be nice if we could share all the things we know with
the younger generation. Because they are the ones that will be here after
us, in the future...Anyone who is listening to me now, out there right
now...lets help each other! If someone is dealing with something bad on
their land, we should support each other strongly and make sure they do
a good job, cleaning up the waste. If this happens we would be thankful.
Sheldon: Hello...I don’t know if I am going to get it right. That story,
about Grandfather Ayah’s prophecy, where he said that our Lake will be
the last one, the last one left and that all the people of this world will
come to this Lake for the water, is that story true?
Charlie Neyelle: Yes, this lake, Great Bear Lake has very good water and it will be the last Lake on earth to have good water. The Lake is like a living thing. The elders were saying this and they were talking about it. If the water disappears from us, then our life around us will go faster. If the water disappears, nothing in this world will be alive. The flowers will not survive. When Spring comes around, the flowers in the bush, willows, trees, spruce,… they will look like fuel has been spilled on them. This will happen again and again, year after year. This fuel, if it spills into something and gets into the water, the water will die, then it will be impossible for the water to survive. Is it possible for you to get a cup of water and mix it with gas or oil, then drink it?
Charlie: Because of that, we must take care of the water.
Charlie: That is the way, we must take care of Great Bear Lake. If you do not want anything to happen to the water, you must give the Great Bear Lake, the greatest respect.
Charlie: What if there is no more water? We need to respect the water. To take care of the Bear Lake and respect it. Respect the Great Bear Lake water. Take good care of it.
Sheldon: Yeah...I will respect it....
Kristy Ann: Another day has passed here in Deline…stars are bright, the northern lights are dancing…the people are warm and cosy, asleep in their beds…the sound of wolves howling!
Sheldon: Ehmm...Is the Waterheart still alive?
Charlie Neyelle: Oh yes, it will stay alive, forever. Yes, yes. I will give you my heart. That is the way to respect each other and obey each other.
Class: Thankyou! Thankyou, Charlie.
Gordon and baby daughter, Rose Anne Taniton: This is…Sing with me, “He ay hey hey, he ay hey hey….
Kristy Ann: This program is a collaboration between Polar Radio, CBC North and the community of Deline. The interviews for this programme were done by:
Students: Kristy Ann Modeste, Doris Taneton, Sheldon Takazo, Chelsea Elemey , Sidney Tutcho, Mahalaia Mackenzo, Rodney Tutcho, Hilary Andre, Valeria MacKenzo, Carla Kenny.
Kristy Ann: The Deline elders interviewed for this programme are Bella and Adrian Menacho, Alfred and Jane Taniton, Jane Quitte, Hughie Ferdinand, Elisabeth Kodakin, Morris Neyelle, Charlie Neyelle, Joe Blondin Junior. Thankyou.
Listen to the Documentary
A version of the original Waterheart documentary aired on CBC North radio in July 2008. It was broken down into a five-part series played over the course of one week. And, it was re-produced for an English-language audience using the narration of trainer Dawn Ostrem.
The original Waterheart documentary was produced by Polar Radio, CBC North and the students of Deline. It is a 45 minute feature that is mainly in the Slavey language.
During the radio production workshop students were given assignments to develop production skills.
They were asked to chose a place in the community that is special to them for any reason, go there and talk about it. They were asked to record themselves speaking and the sounds they heard. The assignments helped the students learn to handle the microphone and recording equipment properly, think about description and story-telling as well as provide insight into what is important to them in their community.
Many excerpts of these assignments were used in the final documentary.
Joe Blondin Jr.