by Jennifer Pritchett
Northern News Services
NNSL (Feb 12/97) - Felix Beyonnie is proud to have finished the challenge of his life.
Nineteen-year-old Beyonnie is one of a dozen young people who underwent an adventure that led them into the wilderness to learn about the traditions of their elders.
"I learned about how the elders lived years ago," he said. "This first-hand knowledge of getting out on the land makes me feel good about myself."
The 14-day canoe trip from the Yellowknife River to Mackay Lake -- a journey not taken since the 1950s -- is a tiresome and dangerous journey over rocks and hills. While he admits the trip was a challenge, Beyonnie feels proud that he finished.
"It made me feel good about myself because no one has done this trip in more than 50 years," Beyonnie said.
Funded by the Yellowknife Dene Cultural Society and Youth Services Canada, the project was geared toward youths age 18 to 25 who were unemployed and not in school.
Throughout the six-month program they restored traditional burial sites, repaired community buildings and built a house in Ndilo.
They were also involved in the rescue effort at Rae-Edzo last September when four members of the community were lost on the North Arm of Great Slave Lake.
Rachel Crapeau, organizer of the project, said that the project brought young people in the community closer to the elders.
"This enabled elders to pass on traditional knowledge that they've wanted to give to the younger generation for the past 20 years," she said.
Isadore Tsetta, one of the few remaining people who made the last trip to Mackay Lake, is particularly pleased about the completion of the project. He said that he is proud of the youths, having known the harshness of the trek.
Darrell Beaulieu, chief of Ndilo, said that the project will have far-reaching benefits for the youths involved.
"This teaches them life lessons -- they'll learn that you must not quit," Beaulieu said. "Like the canoe trip, you persevere to succeed. I would like people to remember their feeling of accomplishment."
In retrospect, Beyonnie said that he would have taken the initiative to learn the traditions from the elders long ago.
"People shouldn't wait for the chance to do this, they should just do it on their own," he said.