Ernie, the son of Mina Bussidor (a Sayisi Dene) and Ronald Geoffrey Wheeler (a US Army serviceman) was born in Fort Churchill Hospital in 1956.
As an infant, Ernie and his older brother Carl Geoffrey were adopted by their maternal grandparents, Peter and Mary Bussidor. Peter and Mary were Dene elders who taught Ernie all aspects of Dene history, culture and language. He was also taught how to hunt, fish and sustain himself off the land. Ernie learned the drum songs by listening to the elders and was taught the ancient stories of life on the land through his grandparents in stories handed down through the generations.
The dark years of Dene Village, Churchill remain with him. After attending high school in Winnipeg, Ernie moved to Tadoule Lake in December 1974. It was to be the last stronghold for the Sayisi Dene First Nation and it was Utopia. Caribou were in abundance and the lakes were teeming with fish of all species. Moose were plentiful, and living in log cabins was the way of life for a number of years.
Ernie has resided in Tadoule for most of his adult life, and continues to this day. He is an avid adventurer and canoeist. He has paddled all three arms of the Seal River and can attest to its rugged, natural beauty. Ernie became particularly interested in preserving this great river after he paddled with a group of community youth to Churchill in August 2017.
That is when he became convinced that this heritage river and its watershed should be protected from industrial developments.
Ernie has worked in many capacities in the small reserve of the Sayisi Dene First Nation (formerly Fort Churchill Band). He was elected for three terms as Chief, and twice as Councillor in his 20+ years in leadership. He was also employed as Band Store Manager, ran his own business, worked as Airport Manager, and is an avid carpenter and soapstone artist.
Ernie is currently serving as the Patrol Commander for the Canadian Ranger Patrol Group Tadoule Lake. He is an alternate member of the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board and also works as a Dene Translator for the North of 60 Dene Land Claims process. Ernie is in the process of building cabins for teachings by elders on the lake.
Our vision is to ensure our grandchildren’s grandchildren have the opportunity to engage in traditional practices such as hunting, fishing and serving as stewards of the land and animals within a healthy watershed.