An interview with Uncle Alexis Washie of the Tlicho Dene.
I was point man up in Ghost Lake, eh? There were ten of us who were doing community hunting...and there was a gully.
So I was asked, “This is your grandfather’s place, your dad’s place. They went hunting down here. You know the area.”
So I said, “Yeah.”
I went up and I saw a whole bunch of caribou on one side of the hill there, eh? One whole herd, but the wind was blowing from us to them and they could smell us, eh? So I went back, there was ten of us.
I said, “Well there’s another gully on the other side of the hill where the wind would, from the caribou to us, change, so they won’t smell us. So we’ll go that way.”
I’m a point man, eh? Across the stream there, and the willows are just like this. Holy smokes, boy! The willows, just tall, just like strings, just like spiderwebs. I got my .303, eh?....And I walked across the stream. I was walking across the stream and I went like this, “Come on you guys. Let’s go.”
You know, ten hunters, lining up and I said, “Come on you guys, let’s go.”
And they said, “Alex, don’t move. Don’t move.”
And I could see their eyes right over my head and I could see their bolt actions--click click--“Alex, whatever you do, don’t move. Don’t move.”
I said, “Come on, you guys.”
And I turned around, eh? And I saw this big silver tipped grizzly, boy! Just like that. Right behind my back. Right there.
I couldn’t--I just froze.
And that old man, one of the hunters there, the old man, just lift up his hand and he spoke in his own language...
And that grizzly just ran over the hills, just put his paws down and ran over the hills. Me, I just sat down on the rock...The old man just spoke up, he talked to the bear: “We’re not hunting you. We’re just a poor people that’s going for caribou hunting to bring back. Just like you. You’re hunting for something else. But us, we got families back home. We’re not hunting for you. So wherever you come from, go back.”
That’s what the old man said. And that silver tipped grizzly, boy--I wouldn’t be sitting here telling you guys stories...
My Uncle Alexi told this to me during the Christmas holidays of 1994.
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