Thursday, December 1, 2016


    What a super bunch of questions! I enjoyed writing these posts. Your questions make me think of many more details.

    Here goes!

What did you teach? How long did you stay? Why did you leave and where did you go then?
    Linda, I taught 7 th and 8th grades. I also had a 2nd grade phys.ed class one year. I spent 5ive years altogether. I wanted a transfer to another place and I didn't get it so I came "out " for a year and was going to apply again. I never applied again. I got a position in Red deer and planned to stay one year. Here I am 49 years later.

Did you ever spoke or met some of your pupils you had teached, when they were grown up? And how did they remember those schooldays?  I never met any of these students again. Some of them became prominent leaders and I read about them in the news. some I heard about from my friends.

Was this where you met your wonderful micromanager? Was she teaching there too? I'm sorry if you already answered this. My brain is so foggy.
   I did meet the Micro manager in Inuvik. She came in as a nurse. The guys always knew when girls wer coming in and scouted them out as they came in the airport!!!
  Yorkshire PuddingThursday, December 01, 2016
Following your last post, I asked about the term "eskimo" but you ignored my question. I guess that makes you a typical teacher - blethering on like an ocean liner ploughing through the waves. 
   The term eskimo actually comes from the Cree as that's what they called the people to the north. So since explorers met the Cree first, the explorers called them eskimo. Eskimos call themselves Innuit the people. One is an Innuk. Now I like the simile you have for teacher. It fits me just fine as I do get off the topic easily.
I also wanted to ask about insects up in that region in the summertime. Are there many and do they interfere with normal life?
Insects were a nasty problem. Mosquitoes were unbelievable. Most of the time we were well covered with clothing with the exception of hands and face. The mosqitoes certainly interfere with normal life but we just had to get on with things. One time while boating, I had planned to camp overnight at a certain spot. As I approached the bank a bazillion mosquitoes met me. I backed the boat up  and continued my trip for the rest of the night. Out in the middle of the river and in a moving boat we were free of mosquitoes. It was light all night so keep on going.
Did you ever spoke or met some of your pupils you had teached, when they were grown up? And how did they remember those schooldays?
I did not meet any former students. I did hear about them as some took important leadership positions and they were in the news. I did hear about some when I met friends and they would tell me about some. I taught the Dad of the  Koe curling team from Canada
I wondered about the foods you ate.I recently watched a show about a group on Barrow island. the culture had a draw for the kids who left and tried college, missing the family life they had and returned.
I ate regular food from my ration. Yes when kids went back home some would not eat country food. It caused all kinds of challenges for the people. Country food(meat and fish) was nutritious and good but the kids didn't like it anymore. I hope this answers your question.
How did you change after your northern experiences?
I learned about racism and how terrible it was. I had to look at things from a different point of view. I remember well the first time I was in a minority situation. I knocked on the priest's door and I heard the kids tell the Father ,"It's a white man." It cut through me like a knife. Their belief in spirits as real got me thinking about my own faith and how shallow it was.
How did you cope with the long hours of darkness during the winter?
    I loved the darkness and the light.I made sure I got out in the winter. I visited somebody every evening. The 24 hour daylight was energizing. I didn't sleep much. Some people could not cope with these conditions at all.
Were any of your students forcibly removed from their homes back then? I have read about it but didn't know if was widespread. Thanks for asking. :-
Some of them were forcibly removed. Parents would go out on the trapline so their kids wouldn't be found. Sooner or later the kids were picked up. Some kids were staying in the settlement with grandparents. When the parents came back they were angry and confused as to why their children had disappeared. Sometimes missionaries were involved in sending kids away. Some parents wanted their children to get an education. Usually those kids did fairly well with the support of parents. And then some children were apprehended and put in foster care.
What was it like getting used to dramatically less- and more- daylight
Changes in daylight happened slowly so it was easy to get used to. I liked the dark and light periods. I kept busy during the dark and spent time outside. There was twilight from 11:00 AM to 2 PM so we had awesome skies for part of the day. When it was cloudy it was very dark. I found the 24 hour daylight to be very energizing. I often went without sleeping. Some people could not cope with these situations at all.
What did you teach and to what age students? What was the worst time for you...and what was the best? Did you go back home during the time you were up there, what did you do in the time you were not teaching? I believe you said ten months out of the year...was that for the teacher too? What kind of celebrations> How was Christmas? Oh see I was the wrong person to answer your question:)
I taught 7th and 8th grades. I taught all their subjects. The worst? I didn't realize. I did not understand that these kids came from another world..culture. The best is the opposite of the worst. I did learn from the kids if I listened to them.I did go out every summer. Some of the time was spent at home. Weekends in the north? We partied! We also had lots to do. The gym was used every day. I went boating every weekend and snowshoed in the winter. I also did some hunting and lots of fishing. I  don't remember Christmas celebrations. The single people did get together and make a Christmas dinner with all the trimmings. I had an Inuit lady make me a proper parka. It was long with three layers, duffle and lining. There was fur around the hood sleeves and hem. I wore shoes with overshoes. I did wear mukluks about half the time and they were awesome to wear...very comfortable.
I'm not sure if you covered this earlier in your blog, but I'll ask now while I have the chance! How long did you teach up north, and why did you decide to leave?
 I lived a total of 5 years in the north. I left by accident. I applied for a transfer and didn't get it. I planned to stay in the south for a year and apply again. I never applied again. I still live in the same city I planned to stay in for only one year.
Here's a question: I've been told that "Eskimo" is a derogatory word for Canada's indigenous peoples. Is this true, and is that a word that should be avoided? What would be a more proper term?
Eskimo is a Cree term that means raw meat eaters. At one time it was derogatory but since the term isn't used much any more it;'s not really and issue. The proper term is Inuit which means the people. Inuit is commonly used now.
What were your students like? How were they treated? What did you like best about your job? What did you like least?
The students were like any other students. Kids are kids. We made a mistake and treated them like kids in the south...white kids. They ignored our ignorance. At the time we thought we were cutting edge and doing a great thing for the aboriginal people. Of course, I liked that but it turned out to be wrong. Sometimes there were behaviour problems that I didn't understand. I wasn't able to deal with the situation in a positive way. I was frustrated by the misunderstanding on my part.
This is a variation on how you coped with the long winter. I'd like to know how you coped with the long summer. Was it difficult to sleep when it is light out for half the night?
I loved the long summer days and sometimes skipped a night's sleep. Many times we catnapped and didn't even try to have a night's sleep.  Some people could not cope with either the light or the dark. It seemed to me that the 24 hour daylight was energizing. 
    I enjoyed answering these questions. It made me think of other things. Now if I didn't answer what you wanted , seconds are allowed. If you thought of something else ask it.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


    In my teaching there were many times a day I said , "Are there any questions?"

    Well, that's what I'm going to ask in this post. Do you have any questions about the north and experiences I had. 

    I've been down this road before and I can never cover all the details. I've talked to groups or just sat around with friends and relatives talking. I could talk all night. I could get off the topic many times.

   I talk to myself about my experience. I go over what happened many times and with reflection I learn new things all these many years after.

   I won't guaranty the I will or can answer all questions. I'm sure I will get some very interesting questions. Some questions will show me what I left out. Some questions will bring on another post.

    So try me. as I always told my classes there are no dumb questions.

No there's a fish story for you!

Monday, November 28, 2016


      Now it took quite a while until I was involved in what I came for. But finally I did get to the school, classroom and most importantly the students.

     Inuvik was a new town. They started building it in the early 50's and it was opened in 1957. So the school was a very new building. It was a large building and at the time we had about 1000 students. Now this wasn't a large brick structure but built completely with wood. The building was on pilings put into the permafrost. There would be lots of shifting with the building so it had to be flexible. The building was two story , had a large gym, shop , home ec. and typing for high school options. There was not a music or drama program. It was a divided into an A wing and B wing. The B wing was used for the separate or Catholic students. The A wing was for the public school. there was a a small high school of about 4o students. This was a first for housing the two school systems in the same building. It worked well and we thought of each other as being on the same staff.

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    Of the 1000 students a third were Eskimo, another third Indian and then other. 600 of the kids came from outside the town and lived in the hostels or dormitories. 400 kids were town residents.

     I have mentioned the hostels before. The hostels were run by the churches as a development from the time when the churches were the only ones running a school. The Catholic hostel had 250 kids and the Anglican hostel had 350 kids.

    So most of the students were in the gr 1 -8 category with a higher number in the primary grades.

    Aboriginals in this area had a pretty good handle on the English language. They'd been exposed to traders, churches and there was some education. The Dew line was built in the early 50's and many of the men worked on construction so there was more exposure to English. I never heard any native language spoken when I was a there. Native languages were spoken but it was when they were together.

    As a result most of the kids entering school had some English.

    Now in 1963 the philosophy was still make the aboriginals into white guys. So in schools and hostels the aboriginal language was discouraged. We taught very much as we would in a southern school. As I look back on it we were more than naive. These kids did not have the background to process the material we presented. Dick and Jane didn't go over very well with kids who were nomadic and had different clothes and  food. Similar things happened in the whole school program.

    We had little kids in the hostel who were 1000 miles from home. Imagine letting go of your six year old for 10 months of the year. It was criminal. The kids went back to their parents and found it hard to live in tents and eat country food.(fish, caribou, seal). We now know what harm has been done to the aboriginal people. We should have known at that time that it was not a good plan.

     We had a staff of about 50 teachers. They came from every province in Canada. There were also British , Australian and Americans. I was exposed to many different systems of teacher education. The learning curve was steep. I feel fortunate to have taught in a school with such a variation of teachers. I learned much from them.

    For me there was all kinds of overload. I lived in a completely different environment. I was exposed to a different culture. There were always new things to learn.

   The situation was challenging but I learned so much and I always say that it changed my life forever.

Saturday, November 26, 2016


    The challenges I've described in previous posts all happened within 10 days. However, they got me to the location where I was going to teach.

    I had to face one more challenge but this one took a little longer. I looked forward to my first paycheck. It didn't come. I was sure I'd get a paycheck in October. Nothing doing. I got my first paycheck at the end of November. I forget if I got all three months at once or if it was messed up and I got back pay. I didn't really need money except at that time I smoked. 

    Now there had to be an explanation for all the problems we faced. I was not the only one who had problems. All the new teachers experienced the same challenges. Some of them got checks in Sept. Some got checks in early Dec.

    At the time the Northwest Territories were governed by a council of 15 members. They operated out of Ottawa . Most members of the council had never been in the territories and some could have cared less . These councillors were political appointees. Ottawa is 4107 miles from Inuvik. There were no telephone lines out of the territories to the "outside". There were no roads. Govt. administration staff was very small. There were no scheduled flights to anywhere. All flights were charters. As you can see there was a formidable challenge for the administration to get their work done. There was some intermittent radio contact especially to the more isolated staff. Staff in smaller settlements were dropped off in Sept. and there usually was only one or two flights in during the year. So they got mail a couple of times a year.

    Inuvik had an all weather airstrip and a modern terminal. Pacific Western Airline started scheduled flights the first year I was there. There were to be two flights a week. However we went two weeks without flights several times. Transportation and communication improved rapidly after I got there. A telephone line was constructed to the outside world. I could phone home to mother!

   The council that governed us was changed from Ottawa to Yellowknife which was in the Territories. Six members of the council had to be northern residents. 

    Changes came rapidly with improved transportation and communication. It was a rough ride at the beginning but improvements were made.

    My teacher followers are wondering about the school so that comes next.


Wednesday, November 23, 2016


    At the end of my last post I got to my apartment but there was no food.

    Now I have to go back in history a bit to make sense out of the food situation. Remember that I was employed by the Canadian government and it was 1963. I became a civil servant and so took and oath was not allowed to vote.

    The Canadian government had left the Northwest Territories to themselves until after the Second world war. Missionaries had been in the Arctic for a 100 years but they were a very small group but had managed to convert most of the aboriginals. A few traders had been in the Arctic for a 100 years. A few policemen were stationed at a few places. The Canadian government had spent next to nothing in the territories. There was a minor transportation system where barges brought freight down the Mackenzie river. Lone bush pilots had done some charter work.

    After WW II the Canadian government decided to become active in the territories. There had been some Army activity in the territories during the war but very little.

    After the war the government decided to set up schools, hospitals and administration. They also decoded to build airports. Before that could happen the cold war dictated that two DEW lines(radar) would be built. There was major construction so building supplies had to be brought in. Before the Dew lines were finished a number of schools had been built.

   Now logistics had to be in place. People had to be brought in and looked after. Housing, transportation and food had to be supplied.

    Did I say food? Yes. They developed a system that they called rations. They had devised a system to provide a year's supply of food. The ration consisted of canned, dried materials and basic food products. So canned meat, vegetables, milk ...everything that could be canned, powdered milk,  tins of cookies and cakes, powdered potatoes and more, 200 lb of flour. These people were in places without stores and they had to bake their own bread. So there were basics, salt, pepper, tea, coffee, sugar, jam, butter, cereals, spices, I could go on.

    So after two days a crew  brought my ration to my apartment. This was 1000 lb of food. I had a locker to store my food so spent a day putting my food away.

   The North is full of friendly people. People from the apartments looked after me well and saw that I didn't got hungry. They also gave me lots of advice and friendship. there was no being lonely there.

   So like it or not I had 1000 lb of food to play with. I think all the soup was gone by the end of Sept. and then I started on the pork and beans.

   This was still fun but it got more funner later on!

Monday, November 21, 2016


     In my last post I just landed at the Inuvik airport.

     Now remember, this was 1963. Things were very different back then.

    Remember the stairs are pushed out to the airplane and people come down to the tarmac and walk into the waiting room.

    Inuvik was new and the airport facilities were new and shiny. So at 12:30 AM I walked into the terminal to find it busy and a smiling principal there to greet me.  This was a surprise. More than that the superintendent was also there.

    Now the superintendent walked over and handed me a key to my apartment! What? I told him that I was supposed to stay in the hostel. Well, he said an apartment came available. Well, how do you argue with the boss at 1:00 AM?

    We finally go our luggage and got into the big suburban and off we went to town. The airport was nine miles out of town. They dropped me off at my apartment and saw that I got in. They said goodnight and I was on my own. Another teacher was on the plane with me and he was going on in the morning. He had asked if he could stay overnight with me.

    The apartments were known as single staff. They were really a bed sitting room. The couch rolled out into a bed. the kitchen had a half sink , 2 burner stove and small fridge under the counter. They really meant things to be for single staff.

   So there I was looking around in an apartment with all my stuff. So at 2:00 AM all I wanted to do was go to bed. We found bedding and made a bed and tucked in .  I was so wired from the past 24 hours I slept very little.

    Next morning came early. What will I have for breakfast? There was no food in the apartment. I think we went to the hotel for breakfast.

   Now I was very fortunate that they placed me in the settlement they did. There was a restaurant, laundry, Hudson Bay store and more. So for somebody who didn't wash clothes the laundry was a goldmine.

    Now in the next post will I eat or go hungry.

    This was the hostel  I was to stay in along with 350 kids and staff.

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Saturday, November 19, 2016


    In my last post I got to Ft Smith NWT which is less than halfway to where I was going.

    But first I have to go back to where I started to set up the next step.

     As you could see from my last post I did not really have any solid goals and not a realistic view of what I was getting myself into. I'm  a born optimist so thought that everything would work out.

     I had been teaching in a 12 teacher school for three years. The kids were had workers and well behaved . The parents were very supportive. It was a very comfortable situation. However, things were just going to continue and after three years it was boring. There was a problem. there were no girls! High school girls were off limits. Half the girls left when they finished high school and half were already connect to a local guy.

    In those days young men "boarded" In other words you stayed in a house where the landlady did everything: cook ,clean, wash your clothes. The landlady I had the last two years was a sweety. She spoiled me rotten. She had arthritis so it was difficult for her to get around. She would phone her grocery order to the store and I would pick it up. I had her post box key and got her mail everyday. I took her check to the town office to pay her taxes. It was a very comfortable arrangement.

    However, in practical terms I was not ready to look after myself. I couldn't cook. I couldn't wash clothes. I had no idea of keeping a place clean.

    So there I was with a great new job and an apartment to live in. The apartment was completely furnished with dishes bedding and linen. I was set up with everything but didn't know what to do with it. However, later they told me they were short of apartments but that I would be given a room in the student hostel. Well this would be super. I'd get meals and laundry again.

   Okay, The purpose of stopping at Ft. Smith for a week was for orientation. About 30 new teachers were oriented to teaching in Canada's north. At the end of the week teachers were flown to their  communities.

    Well you know what's coming next. There wasn't room for me on the airplane! They would fly me in the next day. Now by this time I was okay with delays. Girls , couples and families needed to get to Inuvik before I did.

   Well, the next evening there was a ride for me. It was on a freight aircraft. The airplane was loaded with freight and there were 4 canvas seats. Cruising speed was a little over 200 mph. There were four passengers. One of the passengers was a woman who had been in Inuvik for two years. She answered questions and gave me tips on how to live. She was helpful. Most of it went over my head but it cut down some of the stress for me.

    Off we went for the four hour flight in the lumbering beast. For most of the flight I got to be in the cockpit. We left about 8:00 PM on Aug. 30 and flew northwest. Days were still quite long in August. What I looked at for the four hour flight was a constant twilight. It's a sight that I would love to see over and over again.

    We touched down in Inuvik about midnight and as soon as you were on the ground it was dark.

   The learning curve was steep for the previous ten days.

   What could happen next?

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