NWT and the Beavertail Jamboree
Tansi Nîtôtemtik/Negha Dagondih,
Calls to Action 13-17 speak to Language and Culture, but for this theme, we want to specifically speak to the Calls to Action for culture. Call to Action #14:
“We call upon the federal government to enact an Aboriginal Languages Act that incorporates the following principles:
Iv. The preservation, revitalization, and strengthening of Aboriginal languages and cultures are best managed by Aboriginal people and communities.”
One of the beautiful things about culture is its ability to grow, change, alter, be fluid, and shift without a prescription of time. Culture does not confine us to one specific set of practices and customs. In Indigenous understandings, culture is essential, healing, and affirms a sense of identity to the group(s) we are a part of. While we are on the theme of culture, and with it being around the time of March, it is hard not for me to think of the Beavertail Jamboree that takes place back home in Fort Simpson on an annual basis (pandemics and flooding aside).
In 2016, it was the 40th anniversary of the Beavertail Jamboree, and CBC News North went to Fort Simpson to capture some images. But what exactly is the Beavertail Jamboree for those who are not familiar with the North or the Deh Cho community? “The Beavertail Jamboree is the region's winter carnival featuring snowmobile races, traditional games, youth activities, talent shows, dances, sports and entertainment.”
Typically, the Beavertail Jamboree is held in early March in Fort Simpson and has been something many people and community members look forward to as the days become longer, the weather begins to change, and the sun remains in the sky for just a few more minutes per day. The Jamboree includes a variety of activities, including, but not limited to: family snow sculpture, sliding party, fireworks, basketball, crib, chilli cook-off, radio bingo, drum dance, BBQ, youth traditional events, corporate challenge, pancake breakfast, snow drag, adult traditional events, and fish fry.
The importance of all of these events during the Jamboree is that it embodies the culture of the Dene people. While the events have changed, and modern events have been added to the (typically) annual event, the Beavertail Jamboree embraces the cultural practices of Dene people coming together before Spring, sharing in a community gathering, bonding with one another, and making memories as the hard Winter slowly approaches its end. One of the practices of the Deh Cho people was to use drums and singing to share laws, community standards, and “...commemorate the arrival of important persons to the community and…acknowledge the return of kinsmen.”
The cultural-historical practice of gathering together once a year, after a season of hunting, foraging, and surviving was common for the Dene people. The Deh Cho was a place associated with the gathering of communities and people from the geographic area and represents the culture of Dene Indigenous collegiality. In the nature of Call to Action #14, perhaps there could be language events for the youth incorporated into the Beavertail Jamboree, as elders and other Dene language-speaking members gather in one place. An opportunity to come together can also be a time to learn, and if through legislation (as suggested in the Call to Action #14), but realistically through increased funding for language programming, these language learning goals can be integrated, action on the TRC’s calls on culture could find its place in existing,important community events.
While the roots of culture to Indigenous people remain the same, culture’s ability to adapt and be flexible to the times also presents an opportunity to hold onto the values that identify our various Indigenous nations and groups through inclusive change. Indigenous rights and practices are not frozen in time, so neither should be the approach to cultural preservation. Culture is deserving of protection along with its ability to adapt and shift to meet the needs and validity of the current period it is on. If the Calls to Action for culture are to be fulfilled, then the ability to form whatever is appropriate and current for survival should be seen as an Indigenous adaptive strategy and not take away from an Indigenous culture’s validity.
I hope everyone back home enjoys the 2022 Beavertail Jamboree, and that everyone will be safe and enjoy themselves. I’m thinking of you, and of how amazing it is for everyone to be able to come together and be wrapped within the culture of community and historical practice. Participation in events like the Beavertail Jamboree can fuel the steps towards TRC cultural preservation.
Until next time,
Gavin and Team ReconciliAction YEG
 Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, “Calls to Action”, (2015) at 3, online (pdf): Government of B.C. <www2.gov.bc.ca> https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/british-columbians-our-governments/indigenous-people/aboriginal-peoples-documents/calls_to_action_english2.pdf
 CBC News North, “Jigs, snow drags and happy faces at Fort Simpson's Beavertail Jamboree”, (March 14, 2016), CBC News, online: <cbc.ca> https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/jigs-snow-drags-and-happy-faces-at-fort-simpson-s-beavertail-jamboree-1.3490796
 “Beavertail Jamboree”, (accessed March 5, 2022), Northwest Territories Arts, online: <nwtarts.ca> https://www.nwtarts.com/festival/beaver-tail-jamboree
 Spectacular Northwest Territories, “Beavertail Jamboree”, (2022), Northwest Territories Tourism Conferences, online: <conferences.spectacularnwt.com> https://conferences.spectacularnwt.com/beavertail-jamboree
 Liidlii Kue First Nation, “2022 Beavertail Jamboree”, (accessed March 5, 2022), Facebook, online: <facebook.com> https://www.facebook.com/2022-Beavertail-Jamboree-207793725903502/
 Lisa Ford & Tim Rowse, eds, Between Indigenous and Settler Governance (Routledge, 2013) at 39.