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Current wisdom found in past words

Lyndsay Herman
Northern News Services
Published Monday, May 21, 2012

Since 1991, The community of Deline has hosted a Spiritual Gathering to honour the birthday of Dene prophet, Ehtseo Ayha and Paulina Roche, manager of the Dene First Nation, is gearing up for this year's celebration.

NNSL photo/graphic

Paulina Roche, right, is presented with the Community Building Award by four-time cross-country ski Olympian Sharon Firth, at the Aboriginal Sports Circle Annual Awards Celebration in Yellowknife last October. -

Every August for the past 11 years, Roche has headed the organization of the week-long gathering.

"By June I start planning," said Roche. "Until I hire a co-ordinator in August and then the co-ordinator will be the one to implement it."

Planning the gathering is no small task. As the event organizer, Roche is responsible for drafting funding proposals to various government bodies and sponsors, finding locations for workshops, hiring cooks, finding food suppliers, booking workshop facilitators and ensuring that any required electronic equipment is available and usable at each location. She ensures there's enough wood for fires, security is booked and vehicles are rented for transporting attendees. By the time the co-ordinator steps in, Roche hopes to have all the plans laid out.

Roche said more than 150 people attend the gathering each year and many come from out of town. Part of her preparations in June include sending letters to Deline residents, asking if they would interested in housing a visitor for the week of the gathering. Last year, a plane was chartered to bring out-of-town visitors to Deline from Yellowknife.

Arranging enough food and cooks for the week is really important because breakfast, lunch and dinner is prepared every day for everyone there, said Roche.

The gathering centres around Ehtseo Ayha's House, a spiritual location that can accommodate around 50 people. Roche said extra seating is often required outside of the house in order to accommodate everyone participating in storytelling, meals, songs, prayers and workshops.

Drum dances, meals and traditional handgames are also hosted at the Deline Cultural Centre and the Deline Arena.

Roche works with other community members in June to decide the focus of the year's gathering and plans events that contribute to the current year's goals. Individual activities or overall themes may target Dene youth, elders or the whole community but the purpose is always to encourage healthy living through sharing the messages of the four Dene prophets.

"The importance is that we send a message out about how our four prophets have given us advice," said Roche. "How to live your own life with your own family; not involving alcohol and not involving drugs. It's kind of saying, "How did they live before? Why was it so good?"

Roche said it's too early to say what this year's focus will be, but the planning process is one she always learns from and finds rewarding.

"We look forward to it every year," she said. "It's always, like, new stuff coming in. How do you approach it? You look at pros and cons and reflect on all the years that you've done spiritual gathering. What worked? What didn't work? How are we going to target our youth? How are we going to target our community? That's what you do. You assess what worked and what didn't work."

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