Sunday, May 30, 2021


     A few days ago in Canada they discovered the bodies of 215 indigenous children who were at a residential school . This school operated by a church, from about 1890 to 1980 .  The bodies were on the school property

     Churches made an aggressive effort to get aboriginal children to their school. Children were forcibly taken from their parents. Many times the parents did not know where their children were. Just think what a trauma it would be if your young children were taken away from you? 

     The churches idea was Christianity , make the kids into little white men and beat the aboriginal culture out of them. Along the way there were many tragedies. Children were mistreated badly. In many cases they were beaten and assaulted. Living conditions were poor and many children died. Tuberculosis was common and at that time they didn't know much about treating it. Kids were crammed into small quarters so any germs could spread rapidly.

    But 215 kids? Come on. There should have been some kind of communication. In many cases parents were not told of the death of their child.

    Kids went back to their communities and were not able to cope in their home community. The original culture was gone. 

    In 1968 , when I  was a local administrator in a small Innuit settlement, a child was murdered. The police came in and took the body out for forensic examination. About a year later one of the elders asked me where the child's body was. I couldn't tell him. I regret that I did not write and ask where the child's body was. So in the 1960's the authorities still played fast and lose with the way aboriginals were treated. 

     Now begins the sad task of identifying the bodies and telling families what happened to their ancestors.

    Will we ever learn?

Tuesday, May 25, 2021


        I had many adventures  when I lived in the north. You had to be adventurous to see and learn about things. You had to take some precautions to be safe because there was some risk.

         However, there was one adventure that I took that was much  too risky. Looking back I see that it  was a high risk adventure and that at the time I didn't fully appreciate it. 

          My adventure was to go up the Mackenzie River...all 1010 miles of it.  Not only was it a long river but a large river. At Point separation it is 10 miles wide. As you move up the river there are some rapids and some fast water. So for most of the river there's little  danger.

         Many northern people would dream of boating up the Mackenzie but few ever do it. The micro Manager wanted this adventure and so did I so we made plans. We had a good boat and two motors. We had camping equipment and used the RCMP to keep track of us. Always the next detachment of police were watching for us and if we didn't appear they would have to search for us. 

      The upper Ramparts where the river narrows

There is a tremendous amount of barge traffic on the river as most northern freight comes in on the Mackenzie. So I managed to snag a navigational chart of the river. The policeman I got it from wanted it back and he wouldn't tell me how he got it.  So navigation worked this way .  You would line up between two very large diamond signs that you could see from 5 to 20 miles away. Stay between those signs and you were okay. They sounded and dredged the channel 

       Weather was another thing out of our control . The first five days were

warm calm and beautiful summer weather. One night we happened to be stopped in a settlement. That night a storm hit. Our canvas over the boat leaked like it wasn't there. The next morning someone found us and took us to an empty government house. It stormed for three days. The river rose and was swollen. We were in a hurry so we started out when the storm was over. We thought we would travel along the bank. Within 5 miles we hit a rock. Luckily the boat suffered no damage One of the props had minor damage so we escaped with little damage. We decided to go back to following markers but when we were out further in the river the current was so swift were were going to get swamped.  Luckily we found a small inlet on a sand bar that we entered before the boat swamped. 

     The San Sault is a famous set of rapids but we navigated them without problems. Just take your time. We had misjudged our gas supply but got very lucky when we found an oil exploratory camp. 

                      The Lower Ramparts

     After  those problems we had nice sailing for about 400 miles. We had to cross a corner of Great Slave lake for a bout 15 miles. We were in an open area the was exposed to 250 miles of water. We started out right after dawn to try and miss any rough water. The waves did roll in and we could not run into them but had the go slowly and take each wave one at a time. 

                     The end and we're still alive

       So we made it and my mother gave a great sigh of relief as I had promised to phone her when we were finished.

       It was an adventure and trip of a life time. 

      However , when I look back at it I realize how incredibly dangerous it was. A series of small errors could have led to catastrophic ending. 

                     Looking out over Great Slave Lake 

                     There was some great scenery as the Camsel Mountains. Most of it was through flat country. 

Thursday, May 20, 2021


      Tomorrow is our anniversary. Yes, you guessed it it. I was scanning slides and many memories came back.

      We were married in Inuvik. We met there and decided to get married there.

      We were both in our mid 20's and it would have been difficult to organize a wedding back home 1599 miles away.

     The Micro Manager wanted some of the traditions. Many people helped us get organized.   Most of our friends lived with us.

     We were married in the Stringer Hall Chapel. Stringer hall was a student residence for about 300 kids. The residence was run by the Anglican church so they had to have a chapel for the kids. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                    The reverend's wife set up many things for us. She played the organ. She picked the hymns. She got a choir. She found  flower girl and ring bearer. She was a sweetheart and we remember her to this day. 

          So on a bright sunny day  55 years ago the Micro Manager and I took the plunge into a long married life.

     One thing that was unique about the chapel was the painting at the front. It was painted by a pilot who stayed overnight in the hostel . Each night he was there he added to the painting. The children were hostel kids he used as models. Take a closer look and you see the kids with their parkas. 

     Unfortunately this large complex has been taken down. 


Tuesday, May 18, 2021


      Today we had a rather nasty day. It was windy. Thunder showers would blow through with wind and heavy rain. There was lots of lightning and thunder. 

      I was going to get groceries at 7:00 AM but it was raining. I decided to have breakfast and see if it stopped raining. Well it stopped raining so I got my groceries. 

     About noon there was lots of thunder and lightning and a heavy shower.

     So it's been a very unpleasant day. 

     We are a bit dry here so some rain would be appreciated. I have some garden planted but I think it's too early as there could be frost. 

     Tonight it is supposed to rain and the rain will change into snow by morning so I may have some snow photos for you in the morning. 

     And if I'm lucky it might not snow!

Saturday, May 15, 2021


      I had the good fortune to be taken on a whaling trip while I was in the western arctic.(Inuvik)   I was teaching in a school with an approximate 900 enrolment, 50 teachers and 6 caretakers. 

      Some of the caretakers would spend part of the summer hunting whales and processing skin, fat and meat. They asked four of us if we'd like to go with them. I couldn't say no to this invitation. 

     They had their camp set up in an area known as White Fish station. They had camped there many times before and a lot of the equipment they used was stored there. 

     They hunted the beluga whales . Their hunting was not terribly efficient. They would spot some whales and chase them . The whales would need to come up to breath and then with a high powered rifle they would shoot at what little part was above water. So picture this. The boat is going up and down on the waves and the whale is also going up and down. Good luck in making a shot.

     However, when I went out they did manage to shoot a whale. Then they have to quickly harpoon the whale and attach floats to it. They then tow it to the beach. They were not able to harpoon the whale when I was there so the whale sunk and was lost. 

    Processing the whale on the beach is a tremendous amount of work. They carefully take off the white skin. Then they collect the fat. Sea mammals have a high percentage of fat. Then they take off the meat. The meat is very black. It is hung over poles and dried to be eaten later. 

    The fat is boiled and the skin cooked in it. This is the muktuk which is stored to be eaten later. I did not try any of this food as I was not offered a taste. However, the people in the area looked at muktuk as a delicacy. This meat is highly nutritious and contains many vitamins necessary for good health.


Taking a shot

                     Attempting to harpoon

                    Separating skin and blubber

                     Skin hung over poles to dry

Boiling the  fat in an old barrel

Meat hung over poles to dry

                       Tending the fire and boiling the fat

The skin has been cut in squares but not separated so that it is easier the work with.

    This whole process is somewhat different in various areas

    To live in an arctic climate rich food containing lots of fat is necessary for energy and body heat. These were some of the few hunters who knew how to harvest whales. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2021


    Since I've been scanning slides I've been getting all kinds of reminders about the past. Some things go together when you look back. 

     As you know I was a teacher in Canada's Northlands. The whole situation was a little different. We were required to take an oath. We were classified as civil servants of the Canadian government. So no two months off in the summer. We got 3 weeks holiday and had to work at something for most of July and August. Some of those old boys really knew how to fix those teachers.

    In the summer of 1964 I worked in "Stores" This was a very large operation as they ordered , received and distributed all goods brought into the north. For the first two weeks I did filing My job was to go to small settlements , meet the incoming barges and check off the freight.

   So about the time they thought the barges might be arriving they sent me out. I went with an electrician so they could save money on our transportation. 

   So the plan went off the rails when the barges didn't arrive. I went back out with the electrician.

   However, all was not lost. In fact, with a wink or two the plan went well. 

   I was going to Ft. Franklin on Great Bear lake. Did I tell you there was great fishing there. You bet! We fished every night. Notice the 34 lb lake trout I caught.

   The RCMP were there and leaving by going down the Bear river . I was invited to go along. There were 14 miles of rapids . Fun!

   The barge did not come into Ft Norman either  and by this time it was time to go back home. 

    So I had a great holiday and got to travel and fish. 

    The practice of keeping teachers for the summer was soon ended. 

                   Leaving. Do you notice the fishing rods?

                  Priest's potato patch in Ft Norman

                             The 34 lb trout


                                          Ft Franklin

Saturday, May 8, 2021


      I regret to tell you that I had snow this morning for a couple of hours. Yes, snow. At times there were the huge wet snow flakes that if they hit you just went plop or sort of a splash. 

     Snow accumulated on the ground and rooves but melted quickly. 

     This always sends people back in the record s and they can usually find something worse.

    Here's how it looked this morning. 

    The first two  photos show the big wet sloppy snow flakes coming down this morning.

     The next photo goes back into Red's records of a May 1, 1985 record. This was a couple of days after the blizzard and my daughter decided to have some fun. 

Thursday, May 6, 2021


       I am Canadian but I have never seen Niagara Falls which is 3549 km away from me. I've been to Ontario where the falls are located. I've spent 10 days in Ottawa but never got to the falls. 

      However, I'm not sad about this situation. When I was scanning slides I found photos of Alexandra and Louise falls. These falls are on the Hay River in the northwest territories. They are only a few miles apart. Louise Falls is 15 m or 48 ft.  Alexandra falls drop 32 m or 105 feet. 

Louise Falls

Alexandra Falls

Alexandra Falls

     You've never heard of these falls? They are remote so very few people have heard of them and fewer people have seen them.

     I saw these falls in Aug of 1964. I caught a ride with a friend when I was going back to Inuvik. The highway had just been opened in 1963. The falls were just off the highway. It was 4:00 Am and we'd been driving for 24 hours, what a treat to stop and see the falls. It was fairly light at that time in the morning but my slide is in poor condition. 

   It's too bad that so few people see these falls. 

Sunday, May 2, 2021


     In my last post I mentioned that we got 90% or more of our freight by ship. That usually meant that two ships per year called. But sometimes we had 3 or 4 ships call in one summer. 

    One summer an icebreaker , the D'Iberville, showed up to sound the end of the  bay.

        Wakeham Bay was 24 miles deep. A mining company was working on a mining project 60 miles inland. Their proposal was to build a dock at the end of the bay and haul the ore out over the year and have ships pick the ore up and take it to refineries 

    I'm not sure that this project ever happened.

    But what did happen is that we were invited out to the ship to have dinner with the captain. Horror of horrors! I was on the same level as the captain.  It didn't matter that I was a village administrator and he was a ship captain we were supposedly equals. That has hard to get through a prairie boy's head where everybody was equal. I had never experienced status before. 

    They sent a helicopter to pick us up. As we flew out to the ship we saw five belugas swimming in the bay. 

     I still remember looking at the ship from  distance and how small it looked. when we got closer I saw the circles on deck where we were to land. the circles looked smaller than ever. 

     We had a fine dinner with the very formal old captain and then they took us back home by helicopter. 

      Approaching the settlement by helicopter. It really was a very small place.

     And don't worry I did not let my dinner with the captain go to my head. I still look as people as people rather than what title they are given.