A unilingual Sahtu Dene Elder is the first resident of the Northwest Territories to die from COVID-19.
Gabe Kochon was medevaced from Fort Good Hope to Yellowknife last week. He died Monday night around 10:45. He was 92.
Kochon was the father of Leitha Kochon, the host of Leghots'edeh, CBC's North Slavey-language news and current affairs radio show, who confirmed the details of his death.
Gabe Kochon had been living with his other daughter, Rose, since his wife died last May. A little less than a year earlier, in July 2020, the couple had celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary by renewing their vows.
At the time, McNeely said her father was still very active at 91 years old.
"He seems like he's about 70," she said. "He still goes hunting, sets snares and he is really active," she said]. "He's all over the community — right from the time he gets up in the morning until in the evening."
Leitha Kochon said her father had lived a full life.
"He lived the way he wanted to live on the land," she said.
N.W.T. COVID-19 outbreak
The death comes as the N.W.T. is experiencing its biggest COVID-19 outbreak to date, with cases confirmed in eight communities and suspected in two others.
As of Monday, the territory had 220 active cases, the vast majority in the Sahtu region where two communities — Fort Good Hope and Colville Lake — were put under a containment order on Aug. 15.
In a statement, Northwest Territories Premier Caroline Cochrane offered sympathy to the family and friends of Kochon.
She also said the territory's current case count is "a stark reminder that COVID-19 continues to impact our lives, and that the situation can change quickly," noting that vaccination is the key to containing the virus. She also praised northerners' resilience throughout the pandemic, and called on people to stay strong.
"Because in the Northwest Territories, we help each other through challenging times."
Dr. Kami Kandola, the N.W.T.'s chief public health officer, confirmed the death in a news release.
"My thoughts are with the person's family, friends, and community. At a time when we are trying to keep an entire population healthy, this death reminds us that individuals are at the heart of this effort," she said in the release.
The N.W.T. was one of the last jurisdictions in Canada to report its first death from COVID-19. Only P.E.I. has not yet reported a COVID-19 death.
In the North, Nunavut has experienced four deaths from COVID-19, and Yukon has reported eight.