In a zero carbon emission homage to one of Yellowknife’s most dedicated environmentalists, friends cycled, skied and walked to Dettah on Saturday to attend Doug Ritchie’s Celebration of Life.
Ritchie, 52, died of pancreatic cancer Jan. 10th. He was known for his grassroots efforts to stop climate change, including anti-idling campaigns, organizing walk-to-work days and many years of service with Ecology North.
About 350 people attended the three-hour ceremony — which included live music chosen by Ritchie before his death, stories and a feast — at the Chief Drygeese Centre.
Since July 2011, the “gentle giant,” as he was known, had worked with the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, the past two years as a special projects coordinator. Elders and leaders spoke of his many contributions, including starting a recycling program, and bringing traditional knowledge and western science together to teach young people on the land.
Earlier in the day, former chief Fred Sangris performed a feeding of the fire ceremony for Ritchie’s family members, who had travelled from his hometown of Kelowna, B.C. and Marieville, Quebec.
Ritchie’s wife, France Benoit, said when he learned of his diagnosis he told her it was time to “pass the torch” on to others to carry on his environmental advocacy work.
Towards that effort, his eldest brother Michael announced that the Ritchie family would make a $100,000 donation to Ecology North to help the environmental group secure a permanent home in Yellowknife.
The Yellowknife Community Foundation also announced the NWT Environmental Stewardship Fund in memory of Doug Ritchie. The foundation is accepting donations which will be dispersed to groups doing advocacy work that promotes a clean, sustainable and healthy environment.