A look back in time
Ndilo elder remembers North as it once was

by Jennifer Pritchett
Northern News Services

NNSL (NOV 18/96) - Michel Sikyea remembers what is was like to live in the North before the white man came.

At 95, he has a leathery face that shows its lengthy exposure to the Northern elements after more than half a century of hunting in the bush.

The Ndilo resident is renowned for his story-telling at the Avens Centre, where he has lived for the past year.

"I can tell lots of stories," he says.

He remembers seeing a white man for the first time when he was 12-years-old. The white man was a Roman Catholic priest and seeing him left an intense image sketched into Sikyea's memory for a lifetime.

"I was on my way to school," he says. "He was a good Englishman, that bishop." He also remembers the hunting way of life that proliferated in these parts of the nation until relatively recent time, and in some areas still does.

"I lived in the bush

for a long time to hunt moose, caribou and fox," he says. "I traded furs for hats and parkas and other things. That was when the Hudson's Bay Company was here."

Sometimes Sikyea had 500 furs to trade. "All the stores loved to see me coming with all my furs," he says. "I was very lucky."

He remembers travelling the North with a dog team from the '20s to the '60s, hunting and fishing. And he remembers the fish eggs and bannock his mother used to make when he was a boy.

While not the oldest man in the territories, or even the Western arctic, Sikyea has survived many in his generation and many from younger ones.

Five of his own 10 children have passed away. "I don't know anyone as old as I am."

His wife, Rose, lives at the Mary Murphy senior's home.

He still enjoys smoking a pipe -- some tobacco in the morning and some at night before he goes to sleep -- and he gets annoyed when the nurses take his lighter.

"I enjoy a good smoke every now and then," he says.

He misses hunting and spends his time entertaining people at the Avens Centre. "I'm not going to get any younger," he says. "The nurses tease me to make me young."

If you know of anyone who you think could be the oldest person in the NWT, contact News/North.