Dan Marion remembered for his contribution to community and Tłı̨chǫ region

·5 min read
Dan Marion, a former mayor of Rae, questions why Narcisse Chocolate was charged for selling fish that he caught on his traditional lands. 'I do believe there has to be something in place, but somehow there's something lacking' between governments. (Marc Winkler/CBC - image credit)
Dan Marion, a former mayor of Rae, questions why Narcisse Chocolate was charged for selling fish that he caught on his traditional lands. 'I do believe there has to be something in place, but somehow there's something lacking' between governments. (Marc Winkler/CBC - image credit)

Giselle Marion remembers her father, Daniel Marion, as someone who served the Tłı̨chǫ region and spent his life giving back to his community.

Her father passed away May 12 after a life of dedicating himself to the communities he lived in and advocating for housing, economic development and Indigenous rights. He was 76.

"He was really dedicated to his life in the North and to the Tłı̨chǫ people and I think that should be remembered," said Giselle.

Born in Manitoba, Dan moved to the N.W.T. during his 24-year career with the Hudson's Bay Company. He became the Commissioner to the Northwest Territories for a year in 1999 and held many public roles throughout his life as town councillor in Tulita, president of Tulita's community centre and later as a councillor for the hamlet of Rae-Edzo (now Behchokǫ̀).

Giselle said her father's desire to be part of public life came from his upbringing in Manitoba — he was raised with three sisters and six brothers, and "giving, helping each other, helping your community and giving back where you can … I think that was really instilled and he did that wherever he went."

Submitted by Giselle Marion
Submitted by Giselle Marion

Dan worked for the Rae-Edzo Development Company as the general manager in 1980 before becoming the Dogrib Power Corporation chief executive director and then president in 1993.

He served three terms on the community's school board and was mayor of Behchokǫ̀ for three terms, starting in 1992.

People in the community knew Dan as a mayor, a counsellor and a boss, but to Giselle, her father was "very supportive and loving and really helped me through my career."

Giselle, who was born in Edzo, said he supported her as she pursued a law degree before going on to work for the Tłı̨chǫ Government.

"He had many stories," she said.

Submitted by Giselle Marion
Submitted by Giselle Marion

One of her favourites is when her cousin went to New York in the spur of the moment to get married.

"My dad made a great effort to make sure he had a gift for her in New York waiting for her when she got married. He was just so thoughtful."

When a family had a fire and lost all their personal belongings, her dad gave money to help them.

"I'm thankful for how people remember him and are supporting our family. I hope that they can remember his legacy by taking care of your family, taking care of your community, and ... giving back to others."

Giselle said she hopes to lead by example and to do as her dad did and to honour his legacy in economic development and community service in the Tłı̨chǫ region.

'Made a point of getting involved'

John B. Zoe is Dan's brother-in-law.

He said Dan was involved in the Tłı̨chǫ region in community development, as a businessman who worked to benefit the community. He also ran a small skating rink before Behchokǫ̀ got its sportsplex.

Dan had many friends inside and outside the community, Zoe said.

"When he moved into a small community, he preferred to stick to the local community people, because that's where you get to know people," he said.

"He made a point of getting involved with the hunters and trappers … going out with them by boat and by skidoo to see how the people lived so he can have a better understanding."

Submitted by Giselle Marion
Submitted by Giselle Marion

Dan would advocate for people who struggled with their housing or needed something to be fixed.

"He's a loud person and once he understands what your issues are, then he would advocate," he said.

Even as people learned how to advocate for themselves, he continued to stand up on matters of justice, and if people were falling through the cracks, said Zoe.

As the Tłı̨chǫ region worked toward land claims and self-government, Dan was there to help "pull people together" and worked in the background as a manager "to help facilitate a lot of the movement of people when they're coming together to make big decisions."

"He had a big impact on a lot of people, especially in politics."

Submitted by Giselle Marion
Submitted by Giselle Marion

Dan's water truck and sewage business also employed many young people, helping to get them licensed, trained and mentored. He would also help them get the documentation they needed, like identification, to get into the job market.

As a mayor and advocate for housing, Dan helped to teach people about where decisions were being made and where the money was coming.

Zoe said what he'll miss the most is Dan's cooking and his vegetable garden.

"Every summer he'll plant potatoes and other vegetables that he would harvest during the summer" and have enough to hold over for winter, Zoe said.

Premier recognizes Dan Marion for public service

Dan was recognized in a Facebook post by the Tłı̨chǫ Government for his ability to serve the region's economic interests, including in his role as the first president of the Tłı̨chǫ Investment Corporation, which was set up as part of the implementation of the Tłı̨chǫ Agreement.

N.W.T. Premier Caroline Cochrane said in a statement that she was sad to hear of his passing and said "he gave a lot of his life to the public service."

Cochrane said he "spoke in support of Indigenous rights and the importance of Indigenous communities seeing the benefits of resource development."

As the mayor of Behchokǫ̀, he spoke at a hearing for a federal review of the then-BHP Diamonds Inc. project to advocate for local jobs and economic benefits for the community.

He worked with the Northwest Territories Association of Municipalities, the Northwest Territories Development Corporation, and on territorial boards delivering housing, recreation and health services.

He "dedicated his life to improving the lives of residents in the Northwest Territories, supporting economic growth, and giving his time to make the communities he lived in a better place for everyone," wrote Cochrane.

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