AN ARCTIC SUMMER PART 2 1977

Hello again. We are having a NWT summer to remember, and we were ready to leave Ft. Good Hope to travel up to Ft McPherson, named after another Scotsman explorer from  the mid 1800. Those Scottish explorers were a hardy bunch. This town of around 900 is just 95 miles south of Inuvik, and the Dempster Highway was open at that time from McPherson to Inuvik, but was not connected south of there, so flying is what we did.  There were 8 of us with welders, and our family, plus everyone’s baggage which always made us a little nervous. The northern pilots are known to push the limits. I do remember flying “through” mountains, not over.! Not sure what that meant, but gratefully we arrived safely.

Now, if I recall, Alex and Bob needed to scramble to get to a destination where our Jayco trailer and welding truck had been off loaded from a barge. We were counting on the trailer for our camp kitchen and sleeping accommodation for our family. We got a lift into town, and I recall Ernie, our welder, who was a descendant of another explorer, named Camsell, with an Inuit mother, warned me that we might find some unfriendliness among the locals.  He said the elders nearly “worship ” white people and the youth are sometimes resentful.  Now that Bob and Alex were gone, that left our children and I with the obviously non white welders to wander about town.  We went into a “cafe” but discovered it was not suitable to get service for some reason or other.

The urgent need was to find accommodation for the crew, and we were not  having any success.  Sometime during the afternoon, we met up with a white man and I told him we were looking for a place to park our trailer and possibly sleeping quarters for the crew.   Just as it should be, it seems,  this gentleman had a log house and a place to park the trailer.!! They were Baptists there on a mission, and guess where they were from,  near Columbiana Ohio, and he knew my sister’s husband and family. So, when Alex and Bob returned with the truck and trailer, Alex was relieved the sticky situation was no longer an issue. You just couldn’t make that connection by calling from Yellowknife, now could you?

Ernies, wife and two children came to join us, and I got a different slant from her on the now unsavory story of Residential Schools.  Her grandmother came from Mexico, and ran a store , and for her the residential school was a life saver. In her words it prepared her for the white world, and she was completing a Social work degree at the time. She was so involved in helping the northern children and women. I have always appreciated knowing her and getting her take on one of the difficult situations the Canadian Government has gotten into.  Also, Wally Firth, the first  First Nations member of Parliament, 1972 was from Ft. McPherson.  Alex sat on a plane with George Erasmus, and many of the people of our generation, who were in leadership, were all products of the residential schools. So fortunately, some good came from them. It is so tragic that so many of those in authority violated those trusting children.  When you understand how the Inuit families lived a nomadic life, hunting and fishing  it seemed good at the time, I am sure,  the children would need to be educated.

We settled into our little camp, while the men went off to the work site everyday, by the river.   The following pictures show something of our life there. As I recall, though the children were having a good time, I believe the men were struggling with the tank construction, most likely, because Alex had introduced an improvement to his coil un-winder, and was working out the bugs.

The deadline for completion was real. Due to the fact the barge coming up the river with the years fuel supply was coming on the customers schedule, and it was up to us to have the tank ready to accept said fuel.  There were regular phone calls from “the south”, probably Yellowknife or Hay River, trying to get Alex to promise he would be ready. He was trying hard not to promise something he couldn’t do. Huge fines would be levied, for every day he kept the barge waiting, they threatened.   So, August passed, and Jon and Michelle needed to go back to Yellowknife to go to school.  It was decided that Janine and I fly back to Yellowknife with them and then return after the two school children were settled with Alex’s sister Margaret and their two little girls in our house. That meant getting to Inuvik for a commercial flight to Yellowknife. DOES ALEX MAKE THE DEADLINE?? TO BE CONTINUED

Arriving in Ft McPherson

Arriving in Ft McPherson

Michelle and Janine, on the Peel River Ferry crossing, travelling to Inuvik.

Michelle and Janine, on the Peel River Ferry crossing, travelling to Inuvik.

100_2362 Image

A study in roots, arms and legs, at the Peel River beach.

A STUDY IN ROOTS ARMS AND LEGS AT THE PEEL RIVER BEACH

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