Elders' Biographies

William Edwards

William Edwards was born and raised in Fort McPherson by his parents Emma and Abraham Francis. He remembers being raised by his Grandmother and Grandfather in town.


Violet Jerome

“I don’t want to be eighty, I want to be sixteen!” laughs Violet. When Violet was young, she recalls how her parents travelled all over the country. She remembers going to Snake River.

Tommy Wright

Tommy was born May 16, 1941 in Aklavik. He comes from a long line of well-known Gwich’in people: Enoch Moses is Tommy’s great-grandfather. Enoch is the father of Jane Leland the mother of Tommy’s mom Gladys. Annie Stewart is Tommy’s greatgrand-mother and her brothers were Old Charlie Stewart and Kenneth Stewart. As a young boy,Tommy’s family lived nine miles below the mouth of the Peel, on the Mackenzie River. Tommy used to trap with his dad.


Therese Remy Sawyer

Therese, or Terry is she is commonly called, spent much of her early childhood out on the land mainly up the Arctic Red River. Many of the people she recalls from then have all passed on and she is left with many special memories. Terry had five siblings but today she has only Mary Alice left with her. At an early age, Terry was adopted by her grandparents, Paul and Camilla Niditchie but went to school when she was six years old in Aklavik.


Stephen Bonnetplume

Stephen Bonnetplume was born in Aklavik, on June 6, 1936, to his parents Sarah and Paul Bonnetplume. Steven’s parents had eleven children. Although Stephen remembers spending some of his childhood in Fort McPherson, he was primarily raised in the Aklavik area. “On Aklavik River,” he explains “you go down this channel and there’s another river there. They call that river Maring Channel, and there’s a portage there.” This was where Stephen was raised. 


Sarah Simon

Sarah was born near Fort McPherson in 1901, and spent most of her young life in the community. After her mother Martha died in 1903, she was raised by her paternal grandmother Catherine Stewart. Her father Charlie Stewart,who worked as a Special Constable and interpreter for many years, became well known as the guide who led Corporal Dempster to find the Lost Patrol - the four Northwest Mounted Police who perished in 1911 trying to make their way to Dawson from Fort McPherson. 


Sarah Bonnetplume

Raised by her grandmother, Louisa Choo, Sarah remembers that they hardly ever went to town. Town was visited only at Christmas and Easter. For the rest of the year they lived out on the land in the bush. At that time, families were always out on the land, moving on the mountains. Sarah remembers some years that there was so many berries on the mountains that they were blue with blueberries or red with nakal. In the fall and winter, they travelled the mountains hunting fat caribou.


Sarah Ann Gardlund

When Sarah Ann was a child, her parents spent the winter trapping and hunting caribou. The family passed the spring hunting muskrats in the Mackenzie Delta and summer was passed at their fish camp. After her mother and father were married, her father worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company in Fort McPherson. In 1921 they moved to the Mouth of the Peel village where her father built a big house. Her father made his living off his trap line in the winter and fishing in the summer.


Sarah Jane Firth

Sarah Jane Firth was born at Rock River, Yukon on May 25th, 1924. Sarah was the eldest of seven siblings raised by her parents Sarah and Abraham Francis, with her grandmother Annie Vaneltsi (Tl’oh Ts’aii) who played a special role in her upbringing. For the first nine years of her life she remained in the bush with her family, but was then sent to school in Hay River. Sarah considers both her  years spent living in the bush and her years spent studying at school to have been equally enriching educational experiences.



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