Mason Mantla, our very first subject in the Dene A Journey series, stopped by the office the other day to say hi. With the recent launch of our new website, we thought he’d be a great feature for our first blog post, so we asked Mason a few questions about how his experience on the show has settled in with him.
DAJ – It’s been 4 years now since we filmed your episode. Has the Dene A Journey experience altered your view on things or had an effect on the path you’ve chosen in life since then?
MM – It made me think twice about how I interact with Elders. Our Elders don’t want the youth’s lives to be as hard as theirs. They didn’t have an education to fall back on and they really encourage the youth to get an education. The Elders also taught me how far I can push myself if I put my mind to it.
DAJ – What were your expectations going into filming with Dene A Journey?
MM- I was hoping to get a better understanding of what it was like to work in the bush as a traditional person. You also have different responsibilities in the bush when you’re a child versus when you’re a man so I was looking forward to learning about that.
DAJ – You talked about wanting to quit at some points while filming the episode, why?
MM – The days out there were really cold and really difficult. Moise was always pushing me really hard to constantly be doing something. Chopping wood, gathering clean snow for freshwater and so on but I was able to push past that. The trip really helped me learn what my physical limits are.
DAJ – Did you actually have fun, or was the experience more of a challenge that you wanted to get through?
MM- I really liked the end of the day, relaxing and just sitting around talking. After all of that physical labor, you really feel like you’ve earned it. I liked being able to just focus on one specific task together as a team, like when we set the fishnets. I wasn’t thinking about paying my bills. There’s a real spiritual presence you feel, being on the land.
DAJ – Did any of the elders leave any lasting impressions on you, with something they said or their actions?
MM – When Moise was translating for Harry, Harry was telling a story about how in the old days, hunters had to have enough furs to pile up to the height of a musket before they could trade for a lot of things. That image of the musket and the pile of furs has really stuck with me, knowing how much work it took just to get one fur.
DAJ – Your daughter is now 6 years old, wow! Is there anything you learned from your experience that you want to pass down to your daughter?
MM – I want my daughter to experience bush life, to know that when her dad and grandpa go hunting, where the meat and fish come from. It’s important for her to understand that someone worked hard to get that food. I want my daughter to be able to talk and interact with her elders in a way I couldn’t when I was growing up. I didn’t know Tlicho, and wasn’t able to learn how to hunt, or talk to my grandpa before he passed away. I want her to be able to feel that spiritual connection with the land that I felt. As a Tlicho person it’s part of our identity, to be a part of the land.
Just this past summer, Mason participated in an 18 day canoe trip from Gameti to Mesa Lake as part of a program offered through the Tlicho Government, to help re-establish traditional hunting trails. He says his experience with Dene A Journey really helped him get through the challenges of this trip.
Mason is based out of Behchoko, where he is currently the Social Program Coordinator for the Tlicho Government.