Fred Deneyoua

Warm for the Winter: Fred Deneyoua's Wood Cutting Business Stokes Local Employment

Living in the North where winters are long, a well-stocked wood pile makes for warm houses. That’s where Fred Deneyoua comes in.  Originally from the Fort Simpson area, he grew up in a nearby settlement called Fort Mile. Back then, they had to chop their own firewood, snare and fish for their meals and had no electricity. His extended family including his grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins all grew up there and his family helped establish the settlement. Many of his relatives still live there and he goes to visit when he can, but he’s a pretty busy man with a successful woodcutting business.

He started his business after retiring from 40 years working as a heavy equipment operator and truck driver. What started as a couple of good contracts with income support expanded from community to community until he was in Fort Providence, Fort Resolution, and other nearby areas.In the beginning, Deneyoua managed the business with his sister and her husband. His sister has since passed away.

Through his business, Deneyoua was able to provide work for some community members in areas where there isn’t much work in the winter. When it’s hard to find people, he does the work himself or gets his son to help. His son works at a mine and sometimes he will come by and the two of them will work together to get a few weeks ahead of demand.

His advice for students that have to leave their home communities either to work to go to school or attend training is insightful, drawing on his own experiences. “I think now, in order to make a good living, you have to go to school. You’ve got to get educated. When I grew up, nobody inspired us to keep our education going,” he recalls.

In the seventies, business was booming in the area, the highway was being built and there was a government-operated training program called Hire North. All the training needed for nearly a dozen different occupations was available under one roof - from cooking, electrical, plumbing, heavy equipment operating and more.

To maintain his mental health now, Deneyoua spends time at his cabin or by the river, spending time on retreat. Most of the time, he spends time on the land cutting wood, something that keeps him healthy and works his mind. Being out on the land is something he really loves, after growing up out on the trapline during a time where one could make a living either trapping or going off to work.

The elders he grew up with in that time bring Deneyoua inspiration. Growing up with grandparents on both sides of his family at a time people were living on their land, he learned so much listening to the elders in his community talk. They taught him how to live and be around people and he lived a good life listening to their counsel. Back then, there wasn’t such a focus on money and they could invest more time in relationships.

In the North where winters are long, Fred Deneyoua has made a second career out of well-stocked wood piles for warm houses. He worked hard for forty years driving trucks and operating heavy equipment and now he’s stoking the fires of local employment with his wood-cutting business. He’s found a way back to a time where his family cut their own firewood, and alongside his son he’s continuing the tradition while helping his community stay warm.

Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.

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Key Parts

  • Career
  • Identity
    First Nations
    ,
    ,
  • Province/Territory
    Northwest Territories
  • Date
    November 6, 2023
  • PSI
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  • Discussion Guide
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