Thursday, January 19, 2017

GETTING TO WORK

    I went to Kangiqsujuaq to be responsible for three jobs. I was to be a teacher, principal and Local Administrator.

    The school had only been open for five years. The average age in my classroom was 15 . These kids did not start school until they were about ten years old. They had done well in five years. They spoke English very well. In fact, I'm surprised how well they spoke as they started school knowing very little English. They did well in reading. However, when I took over they were doing gr. 4 -6 work. The materials were all southern urban based. This did not have much meaning for these kids. Now that iIlook back at it, these kids should have been working at a much higher level. The education system seems to pigeon hole kids and keep them there.

     Most evenings I went back to the school to do preparations. I usually had lots of kids who dropped in for a few minutes. They also taught me many things. They told me who their wives were. There were arranged marriages. They told me about all the different spirits there were and that these spirits were real. That really bends your mind.

   These kids were not keen about going to school. They couldn't see any direct benefit to an education. They were used to very irregular hours. For example, they had no set bedtime or mealtime. Kids with little sleep or no breakfast don't do well. A breakfast program had been started before I came. so the kids came for breakfast. It was a way to get them to school. We also had a wash and tooth brushing routine. Then we started school. In spite of this it was difficult to get kids to attend regularly.Their parents found it difficult to support school.

   Looking back these kids got a smattering of education and lost their independence by not learning to hunt and live off the land.

   The local administrator job was most interesting and I was able to see some progress. After school every day I had a one hour time when people could come and see me. I had a soapstone carving project supervised by the government. The government gave me $2000.00 per month to by soapstone carvings so most days several people were there to sell carvings. I also gave out social assistance. Nobody was on a set monthly allowance. They came when they needed something. Usually they asked for ten to twenty dollars. Most of the time I gave them ten gallons of gas to go hunting.

    We also had some community social events such as dances and Christmas celebrations. Baked beans and buns for a Christmas celebration! It was much appreciated.

    Alcohol was a problem. They made their own with raisins. There were times when I was called that somebody was fighting. I did not go down to break up the fight as probably both fighters would turn on me. I never saw evidence of damage from these fights.

    I had one employee who looked after the mechanical things. We had a diesel generator to produce electricity. In fact there were two generators for safety.

     Ernie was my man and what a character. Ernie was a rural French Canadian. He joined the army and purposely chose an English division as he wanted to learn English. He did not know one  word of English. One funny story. The troops were lined up and they asked for a volunteer. Ernie said yes in a loud voice. They wanted someone to type and Ernie had never seen a typewriter before!

    I found that I was very busy with this routine. It was interesting but the load was too heavy.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

GETTING ACQUAINTED

     The first time I had some free time I headed to the ocean shore. For this prairie boy it was the first time I lived on a coast and I was eager to get acquainted with the new territory.

      I watched until the tide went out and took my walk. The beach is very rocky and pebbly. It's also slippery. I boldy walked down to the edge of the water. Then I looked back. I became alarmed. I was looking up a hill. I almost panicked for an instant but I looked back at the beach and let it sink in. Tides there were a little over 40 ft. Currents in and out of the bay were 10 - 12 mph.

      The bay would freeze over with these huge tides. The ice would lie on the beach and when the water came back in the ice would rise. There were huge boulders and the ice would lean on the boulders. We could always walk out on the ice without worrying about going through a hole.

    So quickly back up to the high water mark. The settlement was on a steep slope. The government in its wisdom chose to put its buildings up at the top of the slope. The Administrator (me) could look out over his kingdom and have a good view. The Inuit were at the bottom of the slope close to the beach. The Inuit did not have to walk up the hill. Their business was at the water line where they would come and go and bring back seals and fish. Any time I had business I walked down the hill and then back up. I lost weight! I paid for my beautiful view.

   After 2  or 3 nights I heard and awful bang on the side of my house. It was a whoomf sound. It sounded as if a train hit the house. 3 or 4 days later another whoomf. The siding on the house was metal. I couldn't figure out what caused the noise. Gradually I discovered a strong wind would come up suddenly and hit the side of the house and the metal would bend in and make the noise. I had to get used to this for two years.

    It was very windy at times and the wind would blow for days on end. I looked at the weather yesterday and it was minus 24 C and the wind was 49 KMH.

   I consider myself to be lucky to live in a place with a beautiful sea and interesting terrain which was very colorful at times when there were different colored plants. Then there was a long time where things were white.

    The top of Quebec is fairly flat and drops sharply off into the sea. There are 1000 m (1600 ft) cliffs along the edge of the sea. There were some interesting places to walk. Almost every time I went out for a walk a few kids would show up and walk with me. I remember them telling me "Don't go there." if they thought it was dangerous for me.

     I'll finally get to work here but I wanted you to know what the place was like. I have many slides but haven't scanned them.

Friday, January 13, 2017

WE COME ASHORE!

     Not long after our landing a couple of motorized canoes gingerly approached the pitching aircraft and attached themselves. They were to be our taxi to the shore. It was a challenge to get luggage and ourselves transferred from a bouncing plane to a canoe that was bouncing the opposite way. We were about .5 km offshore and since the swells were a factor we slowly moved toward shore where people were waiting to grab the pitching canoes.

     The trusty G 5 was there to load our baggage and take us up to our house. The G 5 was a small tracked vehicle that was like a small pick up truck. No roads, just ruts.

     Kangiqsujuaq was a village of 188 Inuit and 10 others. The school had been open for 5 years. The Hudson Bay trading post had been there for 40 or so years. the Catholic mission had been there about 30 years. Inuit had lived in the area and came to the trading post from time to time and pitched tents or made snow houses while they stayed a few days and visited. In the 1920's there had been a radio station for airplanes as they crossed to Europe. A few Inuit had worked at those places.

     However the government in its wisdom had decided it was an improvement to have the Inuit live in settlements and so provided housing and schools. Hunters were expected to hunt from the settlement which wasn't going to work. These people were nomadic for a good reason. They had to travel far and wide with the seasons to successfully obtain their food,

    So here I was in my house with all my baggage around me. We had to unpack quickly and get organized . We couldn't go to the local restaurant for dinner. We had to make that ourselves.

    Also, here I was , the principal of a one room school and the administrator of the settlement. My feet had to hit the ground running. I had responsibility for all federal government activity in the settlement. We had an engineer and power plant and assistant. There was a large warehouse with extra food. There were people who had government business.

    There were about 20 students in 2 classrooms. One girl was 20 and she had been in school for the five years. The kids had a pretty good grasp of English but most of the adults knew very little English. I used an interpreter to conduct business.

    We had decided to order our  years's supply of food. It was a huge job but worked out well.  The food was sent in by ship. The ship dropped off many other supplies. We had some fresh vegetables such as potatoes, carrots etc. We had frozen meat. We probably had a greater variety of meat than we've ever had since. We had lamb chops! There was only one problem . They put our potatoes in the freezer on the ship. They told me when the potatoes were thrown off the ship it was like a sack of pool balls.

    We had to make all of our own food. This time we did bake bread and fresh homemade bread was wonderful. Many days I came home from school for coffee and fresh bread.

    We did get settled in and got to work. It was a steep learning curve.







 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

THE SECOND NORTHERN ADVENTURE

    I enjoyed writing a series of posts on my northern adventures from 1963 to 1966. I was young and adventurous. I was with many other young people and as young people we tended to have a good time.

    On my second venture things were different. I was older. I was married. I had much more responsibility. I saw things through different eyes.

    So in August 1967 I was on my way to Kangiqsujuaq (formerly Wakeham Bay.) Kangiqsujuaq is in northern Quebec. It's below the Arctic circle but the climate is very severe. It's on the Hudson Strait and Wakeham Bay which is a 24 mile deep bay. The tides are very high ...40 ft. The Bay froze up in late November. Small lakes froze up in late Sept. or early Oct. It was a very windy area as winds blew in from the Hudson strait or westerlies blew across northern Quebec and when they reached the east coast they dropped down to sea level with a bang. Snowfall wasn't great but what there was blew around and we had many blizzards. Snow would last from mid October to June. the ice on the bay would disappear in late July or early August. The ice actually went out on a tide to Hudson Strait rather than melt.

    Because of the severe climate vegetation was sparse and small. There were willows, spruce and birch trees. Some of these trees were knee high but most were half way up the knee. There were grasses , sedges and other plants. Flowers were plentiful and the spring was beautiful. In the fall much time was spent picking blueberries.

  So August of 1967 found me making my journey across Canada to this small isolated settlement.

  I first flew from Saskatoon , Sask to Ottawa. We were to spend 10 days in Ottawa for orientation. I was pumped for a 10 day orientation as I was going into something that was a completely different experience. There were three couples. We met the old superintendent the first morning and he suggested we look around Ottawa for the ten days and discover what we could find. Awesome. Just hang out. He shouldn't have given three young guys so much leeway. The 10 days went by . We learned a few things,  had a good time and felt more prepared for our postings.
 
    Notice that there were no flight delays or excitement over airplanes. We flew 900 miles northeast of Montreal on a Super Constellation. We were then in the small northern outpost of Fort Chimo. After a few days we were on our way to Kang on a twin Beech 18..a rather old airplane on floats. So another 300 miles and we land at Kang. The landing was exciting as there were 5 to 7 ft swells. the pilot had to hit the top of a swell and skip and bounce on two or three until the plane slowed down and awkwardly settled into the water. It was a landing like no other I had made.




   

Sunday, January 8, 2017

NUTTINESS IN CLIMATE CHANGE DISCUSSION

   Yesterday , in the local paper, a local columnist had a piece on climate change. The guy is very right winged and anti everything. He's also a very skillful writer.

   Of course I read his piece very carefully. He starts out by painting climate change people as people who use big words. He also twists a few things on science as science is to come up with things that are open ended so how could there be proof of climate change if the science is wrong. He skillfully asks questions and then provides the answers he wants. Of course, this guy has lots of followers here.

    One argument that plays well is that we produce a very small fraction of world greenhouse gases. If large green house gas producers don't make an effort to control greenhouse gases , why should we?

    Alberta Canada is an oil producing region. The first big gusher came in in 1948. Development continued rapidly after 1948. Many people made good money working in oilfields and others developed service businesses to look after the oil fields. Many of our people have made their living from oil so find it difficult to go along with climate change. Many of our people are very much to the right. They brag  about the value of private enterprise and they do not like any regulation that regulates what they do. They are an easy mark for someone trying to argue against climate change.

   Alberta has a large area of tar sands which are being developed. Billions have been spent on tar sands plants.

    We recently changed governments here and ended up with a left wing government. The right wingers have been foaming at the mouth ever since. They use Trump's call to lock her up as we have a very sharp female premier.

    Now the new government has brought in a carbon tax. Debate has been vigorous and ridiculous as facts seem to have become very scarce.

   Now if the people who are against carbon tax could stop and take a breath they might see that the purpose of a carbon tax is to cut use. Now if they controlled their use of carbon fuels maybe there wouldn't have to be a carbon tax. Maybe if they quit driving giant pick up trucks there would be less use of carbon fuels. 99% of the people do not need the big trucks so it would be easy to cut down.

    I'm afraid people want their toys no matter how much destruction  they may cause.

    A carbon tax is only one of the ways to deal with climate change. All of us can contribute to lessening greenhouse gases by just cutting our use.


Thursday, January 5, 2017

CLIMATE CHANGE

      The climate change issue has been on my mind for a long time.

      In this province, Alberta, a carbon tax has just come in on Jan . 1.

      Now the climate change goes off in many directions. Some people deny that there is climate change caused by the activities of man. What really gets me is people who talk about believing in climate change. You can believe in ghosts or fairies but when it comes to climate changes it's there. It can be measured and felt.

     Two stories stick in my mind when it comes to climate change. They are both northern in origin.

Image result for map banks island victoria island

     When I taught in Inuvik, we had some students from Sach's Harbor which is on the southwest corner of Banks island. When we flew across the Beaufort to take these kids home in mid June we found open water for 2 or 3 miles along the coast of the Beaufort. This quickly changed to ice and then solid ice.

     Now in the 1930's the Sach's Harbor people had a 60 foot boat. Their nearest trading post was Aklavik in the Mackenzie Delta. Once a year they would make the trip by sea. Follow the map. They would first sail east along the south shore of Banks Island (which is the 5 th largest island in Canada). Sometimes the ice was caught at Cape Lambton which is the bulge on the bottom of Banks Island. They would wait. The ice usually cleared but sometimes they could not get through and would go back to Sach's Harbor and wait and try again next year. Anyway some years they would cross the Beaufort at Cape Lambton to the mainland near Paulatuk.. They would then sail about 500 km west to the Mackenzie Delta and Aklavik. Some years they went further east and found open water close to Victoria island. They usually got to Aklavik in August and then had to go back. Sometimes they couldn't get back and stayed on the mainland for the winter.

    What I'm trying to tell you is that in the 1930's there was lots of ice and it was difficult to get to Sach's Harbor by sea.

    Now there's lots of open water. They can always cross at Cape Lambton. Today they cross that stretch of water in speed boats that carry lots of gas.

    So there has been a major melt of the ice.

Image illustrative de l'article Kangiqsujuaq
    Now I taught in Northern Quebec at Kangiqsujuaq. It's a barren area. The biggest trees were knee high but usually ankle height. They were spruce, birch and willow. We had lots of blue berries but the plants were only 2 or 3 in high. It was a bleak area but beautiful. Now you see photos of the village and there are large spruce trees. In the 1960's the maximum height of trees was 10 to 15 in. Now they have 20 ft trees. WHY? The temperature has warmed up and larger trees can grow.

     So climate change is with us and we have to take action before disaster strikes in some areas. We may debate about how to deal with climate change , but we have to deal with it in a very realistic way.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

HAPPY NEW YEAR

    Since it's New Year's Day the usual thing is to say something of significance. I have nothing significant to say but that hasn't stopped me before.

    I'm not going to deal with how fast the year has gone by.

    To me there are new year's and that seem to be an important time compared to others. One such New Year was 2000, the millennium. The hype started a few years before the date. The hype got higher and higher. People were actually very frightened that the world would fall apart. People were worried. I remember being concerned about what might happen. 2000 came and went . It passed as quietly as any other New year's day. I always think back to the millennium which was now 17 years ago.

    The New Years Days from my childhood will be forever imprinted in my brain. Our New Years Day was exactly like Christmas without the presents. We lived in the country and still used horses for travel. (We didn't go very far.) Mom and her cousin would alternate Christmas and New Years. The big meal was at noon and I mean big meal. We had turkey and all the trimmings. It was an all day event. Adults visited and kids played. We had a warm up meal in the evening. Before going home at midnight we had a cold plate. Did I forget all the Christmas goodies? Yes all those too. It was a great day of celebration and I will never forget the New Year's of my childhood.

   Now I'm not anybody for resolutions so I'll stay away from goals.

   What I did find the other day was a blog that nailed the old year and new year. Martha at Plowing through life has a knack of saying  very meaningful things that are precise and concise. Her post made much sense to me. I hope you'll go over and take a look at what she had to say.

    In the meantime have a great 2017.