Billy Day
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Globe & Mail

Billy and the FJMC

Billy Day

We all lost a good friend and colleague with the passing of respected hunter, trapper and elder, Billy Joseph Day on July 26, 2008 in Inuvik. While we will all miss him, especially at meetings and community gatherings, we can take comfort from the fact that during his 77 years he made contributions to his community and to his country whose effects will outlast us all.

Billy was born on his dad's schooner, the Moose River, along the Arctic coast near Tom Cod Bay on September 15, 1930. Except for a brief experiment with southern living near Vancouver when he was in his early teens, he spent the rest of his life in the Mackenzie Delta. In 1951 Billy married Maggie Alunik and together they raised 13 children and many grandchildren. For much of his life, Billy and his family were guided by the cycle of the seasons. They would spend fall, winter and spring hunting and fishing from their camp on the Mackenzie River, and then move to their whaling camp at the riverís mouth for the summer. Later, while still maintaining his strong ties to the land, Billy settled in Inuvik for a period, working for the Government of Canada from 1961 to 1975. However, the call of the land was strong and it took him back to his camp on the Mackenzie.

In the early 1970s Billy became involved in the negotiations that eventually led to the Inuvialuit Final Agreement. He was the last President of the Committee for Original Peoples Entitlement (COPE), a grassroots organization that had been established to protect the Aboriginal communityís cultural and political rights as well as to protect their lands. Following the proclamation of the Agreement, Billy became involved at all levels of the various co-management structures that had been negotiated and which were central to achieving the goals and objectives of the agreement. At various times he was chair or director of his Hunters and Trappers Committee, a director on the Inuvialuit Game Council, a member of the Environmental Impact Screening Committee, and a member of the Fisheries Joint Management Committee. His wildlife-related activities were not confined to the Settlement Region. One example of his reach was his role in 1996 in the formation of the World Council of Whalers and his subsequent participation at that international table as the Canadian member. His contributions, both local and national, were recognized in 2006 when he was awarded the National Aboriginal Achievement Award for his environmental activism.

Billy seemed to be as comfortable in government boardrooms talking with ministers of the crown as he was chatting with fellow whale hunters at their summer camp. Perhaps this was due to the fact that he genuinely liked people. He was as comfortable on the land as in the boardroom knowing that he was an equal and that his contribution was as valuable as any of those at the table. In any case, anyone who has benefited from his beaming smile and his out-stretched hand of welcome will forever treasure the memory of having known and worked with Billy Joseph Day.


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