Richard Van Camp on Honouring Frank T’Seleie

Richard Van Camp is the author of “Like a Razor Slash,” a story in the anthology This Place: 150 Years Retold. The story features illustrations by Scott B. Henderson and colour art by Scott A. Ford. In his author statement below, Richard explores how the events of the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline served as inspiration for the #IdleNoMore movement, and shares the experience of writing about one of his heroes. 

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I was three years old when Chief Frank T’Seleie delivered one of the most important testimonies of our time in Fort Good Hope, NWT, defending the North against the proposed Mackenzie Valley Pipeline. You can watch the entire speech online and feel the tension grow in the room.[1] 

I wanted to use this chapter to highlight Mr.T’Seleie speech, but also to honour Justice Thomas Berger for his commitment to listening to almost 1,000 testimonies. He visited 35 communities along the Mackenzie River as well as other cities across Canada. This was three years of his life: listening, writing, deciding. 

I feel that The Mackenzie Valley Pipeline laid the groundwork for the IdleNoMore movement and the strong activism we see against corporations and pipelines to this day. This is when we used our voice to let Canada know that we would continue to proclaim our need for self-determination. 

I feel that Mr. T’Seleie’s speech is one of the finest speeches ever crafted. His words are eternal. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to call Mr. T’Seleie in his home several times as I wrote this. I was sad to learn that he, his mother, and his great aunt all went to Residential School. I decided to open this story by honouring Mr. T’Seleie as a young boy. 

Mahsi cho to everyone involved with this project. It’s not every day that you get to call one of your heroes and ask the questions that you’ve always wanted to.

Thank you. Mahsi cho.

– Richard Van Camp

 

[1] CBC Digital Archives. “Dene Chief: ‘My Nation Will Stop the Pipeline.’” Video. CBC Television News Broadcast, August 5, 1975, Fort Good Hope, Northwest Territories. (also available as “Dene Chief Frank T’Seleie – Mackenzie Valley pipeline/Gas Project in 1975”.)  

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Interested in learning more about the events that inspired “Like a Razor Slash”? Watch Fort Good Hope, a short documentary film shot during the Berger Inquiry into the Mackenzie Valley pipeline. 

Ready to read “Like a Razor Slash” for yourself?  Order your copy of This Place: 150 Years Retold today.

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Explore the past 150 years through the eyes of Indigenous creators in this groundbreaking graphic novel anthology. Beautifully illustrated, these stories are an emotional and enlightening journey through Indigenous wonderworks psychic battles, and time travel. See how Indigenous peoples have survived a post-apocalyptic world since Contact. 

Featuring Stories By: Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, Sonny Assu, Brandon Mitchell, Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley, David A. Robertson, Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair, Jen Storm, Richard Van Camp, Katherena Vermette, and Chelsea Vowel

Illustrated By: Tara Audibert, Kyle Charles, GMB Chomichuk, Natasha Donovan, Scott B. Henderson, Ryan Howe, Andrew Lodwick, and Jen Storm

Colour By: Scott A. Ford and Donovan Yaciuk

 

This is one of the 200 exceptional projects funded through the Canada Council for the Arts’ New Chapter program. With this $35M investment, the Council supports the creation and sharing of the arts in communities across Canada. 

 

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