Paddling the Dubawnt and the Kazan - 2004 Canoe Expedition
Day 5, Monday July 12, 2004
That must have
got the guides really anxious to charge across the portage! NOT. Some
of the notes that Tyrell made are amazing. The Dene he met had an encyclopedic
knowledge of the country up to the barrens. They told him of routes to
Ennadai and south to the Cochrane and Brochet, of routes to The Thelon
from Grease River (near present day Fond du Lac). Ethingo Campbell, whose
relatives would now live in Patuanak, drew a map that I could easily use
to go from the Churchill River to Cree Lake, thence to Black Lake, past
where we sit now, and as far as the north end of Wholdaia Lake. He noted
that this lake fed the Dubawnt and continued to the ocean where they would
meet Eskimos. He had done the trip himself. Amazing. All by memory. And
people wonder why the Dene are a little choked up about the fact they
have no sovereignty or legal rights to large parts of the NWT and Nunavut.
The point here is simple. In the late 1700s there were no Inland Inuit but thousands of Dene, in the late 1800's the Inuit had settled the Kazan. But by 1940 they were gone. The Inuit's time in the inland barrens was less than a 150 years and the Dene's stretches back a thousand and more. So they are mad. Go figure.
Last night as we paddled to camp we passed a huge lone lichen-encrusted rock dropped into the lake by the glaciers. It was covered in nesting terns and in the low soft light of evening it was a gorgeous sight. My body didn't care about it, but my mind insisted we take a few slides. Just past it we found a huge island of boulders scraped up by the ice. Not a square inch of flat ground anywhere .. nothing but boulders ... and yet splendid birch trees flourishing in every nook and cranny. Yesterday at lunch we saw a small group of aspen (polar). They are just hanging on for dear life this far north. I am sure they would love the idea of global warming.
Is it just me or wouldn't the threat to the boreal forest from global warming just push the whole boreal forest further north? I listened to a lady last year talk about the demise of the forest due to global warming and this point seemed never to have crossed her mind. She also said acid rain was a threat. In fact when there was significant acid rain - it is all but gone now in North Aamerica - the forests loved it. It is fertiliser, after all. The lakes weren't crazy about it though. Anyway, some one needs to start a campaign to save the tundra. WIth the threat of encroaching scraggly wizen boreal forest into the northern reaches where we are paddling it is real shitty camping. You have to paddle for hours to find a spot and often when you do you have to slay a few trees just to get to shore. And then a few more are murdered too allow for your tent to go up.
|Day 6, Tuesday July 13, 2004|
Lonely, perhaps, as the sounds of their grandchildren aren't heard here. Lonely, as few men and women come to visit save for hunting trips. But they have their memories and their friends the etthen - the caribou - that pass through each winter. And, there are the odd visits from paddlers like us who know their history and who know their relatives and feel the same anguish as they do, that they no longer live in such a fine spot, where meat is always nearby in the winter, where fat whitefish and trout swim near to shore, where they can see the mountain where their relative the shaman Erelkal flew to safety, foiling his Cree pursuers.
It was such a day as I will remember in my dreams for years to come.
The details of the day seem, somehow, to pale by comparison. We covered near 23 miles in 6 hours and a bit. We are now cooking under the kitchen tarp and the sun is roasting us. Our tent is perched mere feet from the lake. From where I sit I can see the vibrant green of the new growth of birch contrasting with the silver of the standing dead spruce killed in a fire some 10 years ago. Our kitchen is pitched on a bed of newly growing grasses, bearberry and caribou moss. We can hear the trill of a multitude of song birds that revel in their brief northern summer.
Pizza dough is rising and Poppy Seed Amaretto cake is baking.
As P G said, " I shall never be so happy again." I would add, "Except for the many more days I hope to see in the Dene's Land of Little Sticks."
There is some magic up here and I long ago quit trying to take it home with me. It only frustrates me when I try to take the pleasure I find here back to the city. I can't find it in town. It has to stay here. But it waits patiently for me to come back. And today I found it again.
Would that the Dene
of Saskatchewan's north could come back here. It is where they should
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