The work of Canadian Ranger Dollie Simon is never done

Article / March 21, 2016 / Project number: 16-0060

Fort Resolution, Northwest Territories — Master Corporal Therese “Dollie” Simon may not include juggling in her impressive list of skills and responsibilities as a member of the 1st Canadian Ranger Patrol Group, but she must do a lot of it.

Along with her day job as coordinator for Deninu K’ue First Nation Community Wellness Program in Fort Resolution, she organizes a much-appreciated Culture Week, leads the local Junior Canadian Ranger (JCR) program and works tirelessly as a member of the North’s first line of defence. Although she received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for her work with the JCRs, she says escorting JCR Machaela Laroque who was chosen to attend the Remembrance Day Ceremony at the National War Memorial in 2015was a career highlight.

Q and A with Master Corporal Dollie Simon

Q. How many years have you been a Canadian Ranger (CR, also commonly known as a Ranger) and why did you join?

A. I have been a Ranger since November 1994. Basically, I was looking to do something different but little did I know that it was something I was missing – going out onto the land, hunting and reconnecting that way. I enjoy it and I now have lifetime friends that I have made all over the Yukon and Northwest Territories. And, we are always learning something new.

Q. You missed a large Ranger activity recently. What happened?

A. I will tell you – I was getting ready to go. I went to the Chief and said, “I have everything ready for the Health Fair and I am now going to go to Exercise DENE RANGER.” The Chief sat me down and said, “Dolly, I have never ever asked you to stay away from Ranger activities before but we really need you. You do such good work organizing events. Please stay home for the fair.” I couldn’t say no. I work for the Deninu K’ue First Nation and they have been very supportive of my Ranger responsibilities.

Q. Do you have any family members who are Rangers?

A. Yes, I have a son, Dexter who is a Ranger. My daughter was a Ranger but she moved so she has put it aside for a while. They told her she can pick up her rifle whenever she moves back home.

Q. What Ranger skill was the hardest to learn?

A. Shooting the .303 [The original Canadian-manufactured Lee Enfield .303 has been used by Rangers for 70 years and will be replaced by the Sako C-19 in 2017]. It is so heavy and so different. I was used to shooting rifles like .22s. The .303 is heavy and it kicks. My shoulder was blue the first time I tried to use it.

Q. What is the most unexpected Ranger skill?

A. Our ability to survive in the elements no matter the weather or storm. We make camp comfortable. We are not hindered by stuff like that.

Q. How does your community view Rangers and their work?

A. My community is especially aware of the Rangers’ search and rescue skills. However, they think that we can just go out automatically and do it. But, there is a process we must follow. My Ranger unit will usually do two searches a year. We have been very fortunate that this number is so small. Mainly, it is not because people are lost but because they have equipment problems like a broken down Ski-Doo.

Q. What is your main role as a Ranger?

A. We are the ears and eyes and voice for the military in the North.

Q. What has being a Ranger given you?

A. Well, I mentioned that I thought it would be something new but it was really a return to something that I had been missing. I remember being on the land as a young girl. I was raised by my grandparents and so this stopped when they retired and stayed in town. Starting with the Rangers had me reconnecting with how beautiful our land is; it is all free. You can come and go as you please. My son and I have actually built a cabin on the Slave River just because we go on hunting trips there often.

Q. What is your heritage? As a Reservist in the Canadian Rangers, has your experience been affected by your heritage in either positive or negative ways?

A. My heritage is Chipewyan and a little bit of French from my grandparents. Rangers has always been a positive experience – a break from the busyness of the day though we do work hard. The bonus is that we get paid.

Q. Tell me about your day job – your role as the Community Wellness Coordinator in Fort Resolution?

A. Since May 1995, I have worked with the Deninu K’ue First Nation Community Wellness Program. Mainly my job is to work with people who have addictions, like alcohol and drugs. I refer them to treatment centres. Recently, we started an “on the land” program. I do presentations on different topics like the effects of alcohol and drugs. We recently hosted a Health Fair where we had different booths set up and prizes. A canvas tent was the grand prize.

Q. What is the “on the land” program?

A. There are now beautiful cabins built on Mission Island by the First Nation – you can walk, bike, boat and drive to them. We have a mess kit of dishes to lend to families and the First Nation will buy you some groceries. You can do things as a family – cooking, sitting down to a meal, no electronics. It is a unique program and it works well. All we ask is that you don’t use alcohol or drugs there.

Q. What is your proudest achievement as a Ranger?

A. My proudest achievement is my work with the Junior Canadian Rangers.

Q. Is part of your job as a Ranger to lead the Junior Canadian Rangers?

A. Yes, a Junior Canadian Ranger leader does lead the JCRs through the administrative work and the activities. I ask the youth, “What do you want to do?” and “Let’s go to the cabin,” is the most common response, or “Let’s do something different.” We do some preventing of harassment and abuse through a successful education program called PHASE [Preventing Harassment and Abuse through Successful Education]. We do our arrow competition. The Rangers have been working with the school. Last year we set up a cabin with a stove and the JCRs helped us. Whenever there is a parade, we are all there on a float or walk in uniform. The JCRs do a lot of volunteering. For example, when the Elders put on a Christmas feast, the JCRs were asked to serve the Elders.

Q. How long have you been working with the Junior Canadian Rangers and what kinds of things do you do?

A. I started about eight years ago. This year, we will take the 16- to 18-year-olds to advanced training in Whitehorse, Yukon. They have to be more than 16 years of age because they are getting their Firearm Certificate, their ATV training, and they jump into ice cold water for learning ice rescue. In June, we are joined by all the ages and we go to Whitehorse Cadet Camp for traditional, life and Ranger skills certificate programs. This year I get to take two JCRs for the advanced training and eight for the basic level. So that is very exciting.

Q. How many Junior Canadian Rangers are there in your group?

A. There are between 24 and 26 Junior Canadian Rangers. I walk to work and I go through the schoolyard on my way. Some days there will be someone calling my name: “Dollie, Dollie!” I will wait and some young boy or girl will come to me and say, “I am twelve today. Can I come and be a Junior Ranger?” I will say, “OK, come and see me after school and I will do the paperwork for you.” It is exciting in that way.

Q. What are the most popular skills that the Junior Canadian Rangers learn?

A. They especially enjoy being out on the land, taking nature walks, learning to cook on an open fire, building shelters of different types and hunting. Behind our cabin on Slave River, there is a prairie where we can hunt a buffalo or, if we are really lucky, a moose. Also, we set rabbit snares and make bannock. It is just everyday survival on the land that the kids enjoy.

Q. Culture Week, which is organized in part by you, has been a very important event in Fort Resolution for 12 years. Why?

A. My late husband and I used to go quite far away to a similar event in Fort Reliance, which takes a lot of time and gas to get to. Not many people from Fort Resolution were going so we decided to hold something of our own where people can camp and rotate through the activities. We set up 10 centres: bannock-making, dry meat-making, fish-filleting, dried fish making, canoeing, trap and snare-setting, crafts, sewing, square dancing, singing, traditional drumming, hand games and storytelling. Whatever is going good, we keep. There are draws for camping gear and other good prizes. In the evening there are little competitions like axe-throwing, log-sawing, log-splitting, tea-boiling, canoe races, coin toss and storytelling. The whole community comes along with people from Yellowknife, Alberta and Saskatchewan, too.

Fort Resolution has a population of 474, is situated at the mouth of the Slave River on the shore of Great Slave Lake at the very end of Fort Resolution Highway (Highway 6). It is the oldest documented community in the Northwest Territories and was a key link in the fur trade's northern water route.

By Anne Duggan, Army Public Affairs

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