Champagne and Aishihik First Nations lost their oldest elder, Paddy Jim.
Jim, whose Tlingit name was K'axhnuxh and Southern Tutchone name was Dezitátà, meaning "Fast-Running-Daddy," died Nov.11, just four days shy of his 97th birthday.
"The loss is immeasurable," said Steve Smith, chief of Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, and Jim's nephew.
Smith said his uncle was one of the community's last links to the "really traditionally old ways," having learned from elders raised in the 1800s.
"He was born on the land, he grew up on the land, he survived on the land. His whole existence was about learning from a long time ago," said Smith.
Remembered as a knowledge keeper
He said fortunately for his First Nation, Jim was a dedicated student who learned traditions growing up and turned his knowledge into a passion for teaching others. Smith said Jim enjoyed taking young people under his wing and was a stalwart at culture camps.
"He was a champion of teaching our young people," said Smith. "He felt so strongly about teaching about what he knew."
Smith said Jim not only had tangible skills, like knowing how to build a fish trap, but that he also had a lot of knowledge around ceremony and rules for respecting the land and animals.
He said he will remember Jim as a knowledge keeper for the sharing he did over the last 30 years.
Jim is predeceased by Stella, his wife of more than 70 years.
In a statement, Champagne and Aishihik First Nations said Jim's legacy will live on through the Southern Tutchone language immersion program, the structures he built at the Da Kų Cultural Centre in Haines Junction, and in the teachings he passed on to others.
A funeral service is planned in Champagne on Saturday.