Translator, Elder Advisor, Language Specialist, Performer
It is with heavy hearts that we mourn the passing of Elder Joel Peter on October 15, 2019 at the age of 76. Joel has been a rock to all of us the past few years on the Vuntut Gwitchin Stories project.
Joel was raised by his grandparents Big Joe and Myra Kyikavichik and by his aunt Ellen Bruce. He had extensive knowledge of areas in the Vuntut Gwitchin traditional territory. He remembered the old stories down to the finest details and was always supportive of projects that involved Gwich’in language and culture. Joel was a member of the North Yukon Renewable Resources Council and provided advice and recommendations on topics such as Vuntut National Park, caribou management and park development.
For the past 11 years Joel worked extensively on heritage projects with Brandon Kyikavichik. A master speaker of Gwich’in, Joel also worked with Sophia Flather on language curriculum. He guided us at numerous storytelling and language sessions in the Old Crow Community Hall with his wisdom, his stories, his observations of the changing climate, his fluency in Gwich’in and his gentle, quiet manner. We knew he wanted most to be out on the land. He often traveled alone to his traditional trapping areas in Crow Flats north of the community and to the lakes south of Old Crow.
But he made so much time for this project and for younger people who wanted to learn. In February 2019, Joel spent many hours in the tiny Crow FM radio station recording the lead character in Vah Srigwehdli’ / The One Who Survived, in Gwich’in for our radio plays. Joel, we miss you already, but your teachings are within us.