The father of Denendeh
by Janet Smellie
NNSL (Nov 24/97) - The above sample from the latest work by Rene Fumoleau is just one of the many stories that we can look forward to in his newest work, The Secret soon to be published by Novalis of Toronto.
Fumoleau, who has spent 44 years living in the land he considers Denendeh, may be retired from the congregation of Oblates of Mary Immaculate, but his urge to write is far from over.
With his first published work, As Long as This Land Shall Last, now immortalized on CD-ROM for the benefit of university students hungry for vital reference materials, Fumoleau is also in the midst of gearing up for a showcase of some of the thousands of slides he has taken over the years and since donated to the Prince of Wales Heritage Centre in Yellowknife.
Here I Sit, a popular book of stories and poems published last year, is not only doing well in the bookstores, but has gained him national recognition.
"I had fantastic reviews. The Globe and Mail, Up Here, I was on the Vicki Gabereau show. It's definitely nice to have such feedback."
Fumoleau moved the North from Chantonnay, France, in 1953 to begin what would turn into a lifetime of work with the people of Denendeh.
After witnessing the influence that the white papers, caveats and the territorial government had on the Dene people, Fumoleau served not only the church, but also as a sort of middleman, respected by both the Dene and the non-aboriginal, to whom he offered his guidance during these times of change.
Always a firm believer that the colonial system has played havoc with Dene people, Fumoleau says that, since 1967, the communities became "invaded with all sorts of specialists" that created the "layers of bureaucracy that's still in place," Fumoleau says what he likes best about living in the North is that he played a part in its history.
"When you get older, and you put it all together you can look back 10 or 15 years and see all the causes, the trends. It's really interesting to see what's succeeded and what went wrong."
Now retired from the church, Fumoleau says he looked at returning to Fort Good Hope and Fort Resolution before deciding to spend his retirement in Lutselk'e.
"It's a beautiful place. You don't need a car. I just walk out the door and you can go forever."
It's also a place, he adds, where the people "have made some very good moves."
"Since prohibition we've had 30 or 35 adults who have quit drinking. For a small community that's a substantial accomplishment."
Fumoleau also notes there are also "35 satellite dishes in Lutselk'e full of U.S. stations."
"People say we have to preserve our culture, but it's very difficult to preserve a culture when everyone's watching U.S. television."
Fumoleau, calls The Secret "a collection of short stories and poems based on my own ideas and visions of the world."
Bernadette Gasslein, an editor at Novalis, says that, like a parable, Fumoleau "stalks our imagination" where "a story here, a poem there, innocent at first," can "upend our world" with a sleight of word that "boggles the imagination"
"Folks who normally inhabit the edge occupy centre stage. The same oral quality that marks the gospel parables marks Fumoleau's work. Don't just read it. Listen to it, read it aloud with a friend, a lover, and enjoy the effects."
The Secret is schedule to be published in mid-December.