Veteran broadcaster and Dene Zhatie language carrier Peter Hope retires

Peter Hope, the longtime host of CBC's Dehcho Dene in the Northwest Territories, has retired.

Hope hosted CBC's Dehcho Dene for the southern portion of N.W.T.

Peter Hope is retiring after a long career at CBC North. His show, Dehcho Dene, broadcast to people in the southern portion of the Northwest Territories every weekday between 2 and 3 p.m. (Alyssa Mosher/CBC)

Nearly 30 years after he began working with CBC North, host Peter Hope is retiring.

Hope was the longtime host of Dehcho Dene, broadcasting in the Dene Zhatie (South Slavey) language to people in the southern portion of the Northwest Territories. 

"Language is the key to your culture. And without the key, where would you be?," Hope said in an interview with Trail's End host Lawrence Nayally, looking back on his long career. 

It's a key Hope has always had, growing up speaking Dene Zhatie with his family in Fort Simpson, N.W.T.

English came into his life later, through church and school, but Hope never lost his love for his first language — or his curiosity to learn more about it. 

"Elders surprise me sometimes and say certain things I was unaware of," he said of his experience conducting interviews in different dialects. 

"I sort of research it, or call them back later and say 'Why did you say this? What does it mean?'" 

As a young man, Hope also worked with the Native Communications Society's CKLB-FM in Yellowknife, taking inspiration from Yukon's CHON-FM, an Indigenous radio station based in Whitehorse. 

"We had a vision for what we wanted to do," he said. 

A young Peter Hope. After growing up listening to music on the radio, he first got behind a mic at CKLB-FM in Yellowknife. (CBC)

From there, he moved on to CBC North, where he says he's enjoyed colleagues that feel like family and the pleasure of seeing young broadcasters find their footing. 

One of those colleagues, Leitha Kochon, said she's sad to see Hope go.

"He's very fluent in his language, he has a good sense of humour. I often come to Peter for advice when things come up that I'm not too sure of," she said. 

People outside of the CBC are also expressing their gratitude for his work.

Former N.W.T. Premier and longtime chief of the Lı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ First Nation Jim Antoine said Hope "has done a really good job" over the years. 

"Many people tune in to CBC Radio when his time to do his program comes around," said Antoine, adding that they value Hope's "complete understanding of our language." 

Old friend and frequent guest on Dehcho Dene Bob Norwegian described Hope as "a real jewel to the CBC." 

"Lots of people around this area sure wish him good luck, but they're sure going to miss him," Norwegian said. 

Peter Hope, right, received the Senate Sesquicentennial Medal for his work with the language. Former N.W.T. senator Nick Sibbeston, left, awarded it to him in 2017. (Marilyn Robak/CBC)

Hope has also received awards for his work in Dene Zhatie, including the Senate Sesquicentennial Medal in 2017. 

Right now, Hope is recovering from an illness, but says he hopes to one day return to broadcasting or begin writing. 

He ended his conversation with Nayally with words of advice for young Indigenous people who may not have had the opportunity to learn their language. 

"Find an elder that speaks well and teaches you," he said. "But you have to reach out to them." 

"Your language is your key, and you want to continue carrying it," he said later. "And I'm also here to help." 

Written by Kate McGillivray with files from Lawrence Nayally, Peter Sheldon