By Fr. Mick Fleming, C.Ss.R.
August 30th marked the first year anniversary of Fr. Bill and I being welcomed into the Diocese of Mackenzie-Fort Smith. I am happy and content to be able to serve with our brother, Bishop Jon Hansen C.Ss.R here in the diocese. It has been pure joy to serve the people of Behchoko and our missions in Ft. Providence and Wekweeti.
During the first four months, Covid-19 played a significant part in our daily lives. However, we did learn to adapt. For example, in the month of October we connected with our community through live streaming the rosary each evening along with the Sunday Mass.
In December we were able to hold Christmas Masses in the church but with restrictions on the number of people permitted. Christmas Eve once again filled the church with a spirit of joy and happiness. The church bells rang out and Christmas music was heard all around the community.
We rang in the New Year with Midnight Mass, with New Year’s resolutions and with a renewed energy, it was time to embrace another year of adventures and challenges. Getting to spend a short time with our confrere, Fr. Leo English following his Christmas in Fort Good Hope was our New Year’s blessing.
Soon the winter and the long dark days gave way to the birthing of spring with warmer days and signs of new life all around us.
In our faith community the celebrations of baptism and First Holy Communion brought a breath of spiritual renewal for our community.
The warm summer months brought with it the sound of wedding bells ringing throughout the community. The four weddings were filled with celebrating, feasting and a traditional drum dance. I had a great time dancing.
June 21st was Aboriginal Day, a day of fun and games. Large crowds took in the festivities during the day and a drum dance to finish in the evening. Canoe races for youth, women and men. Log Nailing for all ages.
On July 1st there was a Canada Day parade in the community which was led by our RCMP detachment. It was a fun time for the children on the various floats.
Trails of our Ancestors: A canoe trip from Behchoko to Whati – A group of eight canoe teams set out and arrived five days later at their destinations. A large group from the community was there to join with me in blessing the canoeists before they departed on their voyage.
The warm summer brought many visitors to our community for family gatherings and many events out on the land. The parish held their Spiritual gathering from July 17-21 at Russell Lake. A fun time was had by those attending the annual gathering. Each day began with a community Rosary followed by the Mass. There was a wonderful cookout with traditional meals of fish, moose and caribou meat cooked over the campfire.
In mid July, Behchoko held the largest Hand Games tournament in the North West Territories. Two hundred thousand dollars was up for grabs. There were 34 teams from all around the Tlicho region and even from Alberta who came to play in these traditional games. For four days over three hundred men battled. Each team was supported by the singing and drummers to inspire the teams on to victory. I had an awesome time watching and meeting people. I totally enjoyed the festiveness. To make things even better, it was a local young men’s team that won the top prize of $50,000.
This event was also the place where the love the Tlicho people have for each other was witnessed by all. There were two tragic funerals held in the town during the tournament. Close to $4,000 was collected to help the families with the funeral costs. Truly it was love in action.
I will conclude my sharing with one of my favorite times of the whole summer, a picnic with the elders at North Arm Park.
Happy trails to all. The happy Missionary of the North.