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Miggs Morris’s Return to the Drum honoured in Deline NWT

 Miggs Morris, acclaimed author, who has been part of the Museum of Ontario Archaeology for 15 years, had her book honoured at the UNESCO Biosphere Conference in Deline NWT the last week of July. At this conference Morris’s Return to the Drum was presented to keynote speaker David Suzuki and other delegates by Leonard Kenny, the Chief of Deline.

return to the drum cover

The Tudze, or Water Heart Conference, is named after a Dene legend about a living, breathing heart at the bottom of Great Bear Lake, on whose shores Deline is located. David Suzuki mentioned that he was “blown away” by the community’s connection to their natural environment and their commitment to its preservation.

Here, Miggs shares her experiences that led to her writing Return to the Drum (RTTD)

I came to Canada, from Wales, in 1963 and taught at a high school in Langley, B. C. for 2 years. During my second year, I read an advertisement in a Vancouver newspaper requesting teachers for Canada’s Far North – to work with either the Inuit or Dene – and so I applied and ended up in the tiny Dene community of Fort Franklin (as Deline was then called)….a village of 250 Dene, mainly hunters and trappers, 9 non-Natives and 400 dogs! I stayed for three wonderful years before going to the University of Saskatchewan as a student in Canada’s first Indian and Northern Education Program. While in Ft. Franklin/Deline, I had become increasingly frustrated by how, according to the Federal government, Native children were supposed to be educated, with no consideration given to their own language or culture. I therefore decided to enroll in Saskatoon’s program which dealt with these issues. I returned briefly to Deline in the summer of 1969, then after completing my Master’s degree, I was hired as a Language Arts Consultant by the Govt. of the NWT, to work with 9 Inuit communities around Hudson Bay, assisting teachers to enable young children to keep learning in Inuktitut (their own language) as they also learned English as a second language. Unfortunately, during my third year, I had to leave the North as travelling by plane or skidoo had become increasingly difficult due to severe back problems. That is when I came to London and received months of chiropractic treatment.

miggs in winter attire
Helen Chan (Left), nurse-in-charge,
and me in our winter attire.

One day in 1994, I decided to look through my Northern slides, especially those of Deline (as Fort Franklin was now called) and the photos brought back so many clear memories, they compelled me to begin writing about these adults and children with whom I had lived in the 1960s …. and so began the book. I then came to realize that I HAD to return to the village and did so during the summer of 1995, thirty years after I had first gone there. That is what Part 2 of the book is about – my going back, meeting so many of my former students now all grown up with their own families, and describing all the changes that had occurred in the village during those years…. mostly for the better, as the people had increasingly taken charge of their lives and their community.

The inspiration for my book came from living with, and getting to know these fine people in the 1960s and then eventually learning about all the changes they had gone through by 1995. I wrote the book to share the lives of these Northern people, but as it says on the book’s back cover: “Although the book shares the story of only one small group of people, RTTD sheds light on the struggles and successes of Aboriginal peoples across Canada.”

Copies of Return to the Drum are available for purchase in the MOA Gift Shop.

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