Dene Elders

Dene Elders played an important role in Dene society and were held in high esteem. Their minds contain the time-tested knowledge and wisdom that allow the Dene to survive. They are the link between the past and present, and, through their stories and teachings, they instill yesterday's ways in the minds of the young.

Elders also functioned as overseers of families. Their broad wisdom was called upon to settle disputes that threatened the peace and harmony of the community. Today, the Dene are turning to their elders again to shed light on an increasingly complex world.

Name: Daniel Sonfrere
Date of Birth: August 27, 1918

Daniel Sonfrere's Story

Daniel was born August 27, 1918 to Marie Pascal and Charlie Sonfrere. He was the youngest of eight children. Born and raised around the Hay River area, Buffalo lake area and around Cameron Hills. Daniel spent the majority of his younger years on the land hunting, trapping and fishing. His mother passed in 1929 during the influenza epidemic, His father passed in 1957. Over the years Daniel worked in the forestry industry, as a patrolman and as a commercial fisherman, also spending numerous years on the land. Daniel was married to Anne Sonfrere who passed in 1978. Daniel had three children, Francis who passed at a young age, Raymond and Richard.

During the late 1960's Daniel was involved in the community by being a KFN Councilor and then in the early 1970's he became one of KFN's most significant Chief's. Daniel was involved in negotiating the Katlodeeche First Nation's Reservation status with Teddy Bugghins, Pat Bugghins and Jimmy Lamalice. During his time in Office he was a councilor for three years and was Chief for seven years. Daniel was on the Denedeh Elders Council for the Dene Cultural Institute for many years, as long as his health would allow him. He traveled extensively through the north over this time for meetings and assemblies. In 1987, during Pope John Paul II visit to Ft.Simpson, Daniel made a presentation to him on behalf of the Dene People. This August Daniel will be celebrating his 92nd Birthday.


-If a Number of white people came into your area without permission, how would you feel about that, your hunting and trapping area? In response, Chief Sonfrere stated: "If such a thing is going to occur, they should consult with me, and I will consult with my people and there will be a decision made in such a thing, but they should never barge in like that".

Quote taken from Aboriginal and Treaty Rights in Canada: Essays on Law, Equality, and Respect for Difference