My mom was born in the winter, where there was no snow on the rock at Key Lake. That is where the first mine was built. That was my grandpa’s trapline up there. We didn’t know at the time that uranium was there, but eventually the developers came and created the mines. This is the area we called our traditional territory. It was just like people living in Patanauk now, except we were at Key Lake.
For me, it was important to do a lot of reading to understand the make up of uranium itself. I found out the energy it releases is clean – it is good for the atmosphere and the environment. I kept that to myself initially unless people in my community wanted me to share it. I stood on the sidelines as the development began because I wasn’t against it and I wanted to see where our people were going to end up with it. That’s still where I stand today, I want to hear what others think in our community. If you want to be friends with the Dene, to have to be a friend first, not just push nuclear ideas.
For me, it was important to do a lot of reading to understand the make up of uranium itself. I found out the energy it releases is clean – it is good for the atmosphere and the environment.
These seeds though were planted early for me. Growing up, my family made a living off fishing in the summer and trapping in the winter. As a 13-year-old boy I would gut fish for my dad and put it on a buyer’s boat full of ice. I remember one day, during lunch with 20 men my dad’s age, a conversation about a better way of doing things. We were in the middle of Ile a la Crosse Lake and I have never forgotten it. They were talking about needing to find a way to work with the ‘white man’ and ultimately find other avenues of wealth creation for our community. I believe that is what we have created with Des Nedhe and our partnership with Cameco, and there is more to do.
I have no qualms around nuclear development and advancing technology because I know the positives for the environment compared to oil and coal. It has been critical having our people involved in a good way. There has always been some opposition, and it is important to hear people out, but as we have increased our participation in the industry, we have managed to take more control of community and our future. Our old people believed everything of the earth was to be used for our betterment and with respect. We have taken this to heart and have taken our time in learning and getting more information. We have worked hard to fully participate while maintaining our traditional rights and land.