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Walking the Land, Feeding the Fire

Knowledge and Stewardship Among the Tlicho Dene

By Allice Legat; Foreword by Joanne Barnaby

Publication Year: 2012

In the Dene worldview, relationships form the foundation of a distinct way of knowing. For the Tlicho Dene, indigenous peoples of Canada's Northwest Territories, as stories from the past unfold as experiences in the present, so unfolds a philosophy for the future. Walking the Land, Feeding the Fire vividly shows how--through stories and relationships with all beings--Tlicho knowledge is produced and rooted in the land.

Tlicho-speaking people are part of the more widespread Athapaskan-speaking community, which spans the western sub-arctic and includes pockets in British Columbia, Alberta, California, and Arizona. Anthropologist Allice Legat undertook this work at the request of Tlicho Dene community elders, who wanted to provide younger Tlicho with narratives that originated in the past but provide a way of thinking through current critical land-use issues. Legat illustrates that, for the Tlicho Dene, being knowledgeable and being of the land are one and the same.

Walking the Land, Feeding the Fire marks the beginning of a new era of understanding, drawing both connections to and unique aspects of ways of knowing among other Dene peoples, such as the Western Apache. As Keith Basso did with his studies among the Western Apache in earlier decades, Legat sets a new standard for research by presenting Dene perceptions of the environment and the personal truths of the storytellers without forcing them into scientific or public-policy frameworks. Legat approaches her work as a community partner--providing a powerful methodology that will impact the way research is conducted for decades to come--and provides unique insights and understandings available only through traditional knowledge.

Published by: University of Arizona Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-xii

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pp. xiii-xiv

This publication is long overdue—at least, giving access to the important insights it contains is overdue. I am a bit biased. I have developed a deep friendship with its author, a relationship that had a very tumultuous beginning. In 1986, I was in the early stages of setting up the Dene Cultural Institute, ...

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pp. xv-xviii

A considerable number of people have helped me—from the beginning, when I started my research, to the end as I put together this book. I have the deepest respect for the elders I came to know. They are among the most intelligent and scholarly people I have met. ...

List of Acronyms

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pp. xix-xx

Tłıc̨hǫ Pronunciation Key

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pp. xxi-xxii

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Introduction: Understanding a Little Bit

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pp. 1-10

The drive along the 110-kilometer gravel highway to Behchokǫ̀ was usually rough as the vehicle hit pothole after pothole, but in Joanne Barnaby’s 1986 Grand Marquis we floated. Joanne, executive director of the Dene Cultural Institute, was telling me about her trip to Europe with her mother. ...

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Chapter One. Janiì's Story; Moìse's Experience

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pp. 11-33

A constant theme for discussion and action among the Tłıc̨hǫ elders is their insistence that stories and knowledge that come from the past are important for the present and for the future. For them, both stories and experience will ensure Tłıc̨hǫ survival, while maintaining Tłıc̨hǫ character ...

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Chapter Two. Learning Stories.

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pp. 34-66

In May 1996, Madelaine Chocolate, Sally Anne Zoe, and I were visiting Romie Wetrade. We listened as the several elders who were present told of events. In winding their stories back through time, these elders emphasized information on when the event first occurred. ...

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Chapter Three. Dwelling within Dè and Tłıc̨hǫ nèèk'e

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pp. 67-99

In July 2002, several Tłıc̨hǫ from Gamètì and I stopped for lunch during a day’s outing to Semį̀tì, a lake south of Gamètì. We ate fish and duck while elders narrated occurrences and happenings within Tłıc̨hǫ nèèk’e. Phillip Zoe shared his experience of seeing northern lights go into the water and cause a whirlpool ...

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Chapter Four: Experiencing Kweèt' ı̨į̀: Traders, Miners, and Bureaucrats

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pp. 100-130

On 23 July 2002, Madelaine Drybone died at the age of ninety-seven. Madelaine was one of four elders who initiated the traditional-governance research in 1993 in the conviction that continually listening to and sharing stories are vital to the survival of her descendants as well as of the entire Tłıc̨hǫ people. ...

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Chapter Five. Experiencing Kweèt' ı̨į̀: Collaborating and Taking Action

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pp. 131-149

In June 2004, Father Jean Pochat and I sat talking. I expressed my respect for the Tłıc̨hǫ elders with whom I worked and for their reverence for the spirit in all things. I also expressed how I love the gentle way in which these elders tell stories to guide behavior. He listened to me. ...

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Chapter Six: Following Those Who Know

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pp. 150-173

In 2004, I was talking with an employee of one of the diamond companies about the company’s traditional environmental knowledge research with aboriginal communities in northern Canada. During this conversation, he made a passing comment that the Inuit are much easier to work with because “Inuit elders tend to defer to younger people,” ...

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Chapter Seven: Walking Stories; Leaving Footprints

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pp. 174-194

During the fall of 2003, hunters in Gamètì were recanvassing and fixing the frames of their freighter canoes. Charlie Gon and his wife’s brother, Charlie Tailbone, were planning to travel through Tłıc̨hǫ nèèk’e. They explained that different hunters who would be traveling with them knew different trails ...

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Chapter Eight: The Centrality of Knowledge

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pp. 195-202

While working in Tłıc̨hǫ communities, I often walked between homes and locations on well-worn paths. On arrival, I would listen to oral narratives being told near fires from which warm tea and coffee were served, food cooked, and meat or fish were being dried. At times, women smoked hides. ...


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pp. 203-206

Glossary of Tłıchǫ Terms and Place-Names

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pp. 207-212


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pp. 213-222


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pp. 223-230

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About the Author

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pp. 256-257

Allice Legat is a practicing anthropologist with an interest in knowledge and culture. She has done fieldwork in Afghanistan, northern British Columbia, and Nunavut, but in 2003 the Tłıchǫ of the Northwest Territories held her heart. She continues to participate in research projects conceived by Tłıchǫ today. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780816599660
E-ISBN-10: 0816599661
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816530090
Print-ISBN-10: 0816530092

Page Count: 184
Illustrations: 30 photos, 3 maps
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 855896448
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Walking the Land, Feeding the Fire

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Subject Headings

  • Dogrib Indians -- Northwest Territories -- Gamètì -- History.
  • Dogrib Indians -- Northwest Territories -- Gamètì -- Folklore.
  • Dogrib Indians -- Northwest Territories -- Gamètì -- Social life and customs.
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