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  Mr Eugene Sylvestre   Listen to an audio introduction Listen to an introduction to Mr Eugene Sylvestre by Joseph Naytowhow
  >>Mr. Eugene Sylvestre

>>Birch Narrows First Nation
Respect - Dene title

1. Stories were passed on to me by the Elders. I listened to them talk by the fireplace when we went hunting together. I would always go along with them. Sometimes it was hard to listen to some of the stories because they used Cree words. They would mix up the words and I had to listen carefully to know what they meant.

Dene story text

2. All during the time I was growing up, my dad told me "I am not going to be with you all time. Go along with the Elders. They'll teach you how to live in the bush." So that's what I did. The Elders would tell me, "Be careful with your rifle. Don't load it unless you see something." The same thing with axes. They showed me how to handle them properly because you can hurt yourself. When you start chopping, you've got to watch which direction you're going to work with one. Don't get it caught in the branches or you'll get hurt. Oh yes and knives: keep your hunting knife in a safe place. Secure it to your belt so it won't unlock or you could get hurt.

Dene story text

3. I was taught that way by the Elders and by my dad and mom too. My mom showed me how to cook, wash my clothes, wash dishes and bake bannock; everything. I also learned to make a moose hide by helping my mother. My dad bought some horses and cows. We had a little bit of a farm to keep me busy working; cutting hay, milking cows and gardening too. I had to work all year ‘round.

Dene story text

4. We used to do a lot of things. We canned berries and meat too and stored it in our cellar so there would be food for the whole year. Everything was kept in the food cellar and everything was made by hand; even the cellar. We dug it out by hand using a shovel and framed it up inside. When I was in Clear Lake that's what I did with my potatoes too. I was going to plant the seeds again in spring, so I'd make a fruit cellar in the bush and cover them up in there. In the spring time, I'd get the seed potatoes and plant them again. That's what we used to do. My dad learned all these things from my grandfather Paul. So what I learned to do through all of this was how to work hard.

5. Today I tell my grandchildren and my children to be polite to people. Not to say anything - like bad words. You will become a good person and others will remember who you are and where you are from. I tell them what my dad told me, "Your family is a team and you're the headman of your family. I'll tell you something," he would say. "When you raise a little pup to be a sleigh dog - for a good dog team - feed it good. When it's time to hitch him up, treat him good - treat them all good. Clean them, even if they don't pull hard enough. Lift up the pup and put the whole dog team ahead of him. Don't give them a whipping. Just holler! You'll break them into a good team this way. And you can use them as a good dog team the next year and they'll work hard for you. It's the same thing with your family."

6. Now I have my family and I've taught them how to be polite and how to be good children. I think they've listened to me because I've never heard about any of them getting into trouble; going to court or jail. I thank the Creator for this.

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Biography ~ Mr. Eugene Sylvestre

Across from Turnor Lake towards, the Sucker River where red suckers spawn in the springtime is Little Island Lake. This is where Eugene was born on March 25, 1928. Settling in Turnor Lake for a brief period, Eugene's parents then moved to Clear Lake where he spent his childhood days. It would not be until the 1960's when he returned to Turnor Lake to take up permanent residence.

Eugene's father, Jack Sylvestre lived off the land settling mainly in the north around Turnor Lake. His mother Marguerite Marie Bagg/Muskimut (Carrying Bag) came from northern Alberta. Eugene's great grandfather originated from the outskirts of Montreal, Quebec.

Of all the brothers and sisters born in his family, three are still living. The other siblings died after contracting small pox and influenza.

Today Eugene has his own family of 11; six daughters, four sons, one adopted son and numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren. He married his wife Catherine in August of 1951.

To make a living, Eugene has been a trapper, fisherman, guide and hunter. Today he works with Meadow Lake Tribal Council (MLTC) and Birch Narrows First Nation as an Elder and Advisor.

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Birch Narrows First Nation

Dene Name:
English Translation:




Research, Design and Technical Assistant
Team Leader

Birch Narrows in Dene
Narrows or area with Birch Trees

Birch Narrows Dene Nation
General Delivery
Turnor Lake, Saskatchewan
S0M 3E0
Phone : (306) 894-2030 or 894-2052
Fax: (306) 894-2060

Terrance Sylvestre

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