Brian Jaffray

Recipient of the 2012 Governor General's History Award for Excellence in Teaching

December 10, 2012
Brian Jaffray accepting his award at Rideau Hall, 2012.

Dehcho Divisional Education Council, Fort Simpson (Northwest Territories)

Brian Jaffray has taught in the Northwest Territories for more than twenty-nine years. During that time he has tried to provide his students with tools to encourage first-person research projects about Canadian history. But in the North, this can be challenging. Dene culture has traditionally been transmitted orally, in the Slavey language.

As a consequence, there is a dearth of written and published materials to help students celebrate their place in the Canadian mosaic. There is one exception — The Berger Inquiry. From 1974 to 1977, Justice Thomas Berger held hearings in more than thirty villages along the Mackenzie River. While the inquiry was assessing the impact of the largest engineering project ever proposed in Canada, it also created a recording of Dene culture and stories.

In June 2011, Brian Jaffray invited six people who participated in the Berger Inquiry to travel down the Mackenzie River and visit nine remote schools in the Dehcho region. There they delivered history and media workshops that encouraged students to create their own stories about the inquiry. The work of more than two hundred students has now been incorporated onto the River Journey website and an online archive of historical images and audio clips.