Bill Layman & Lynda Holland's 2002 trip
La Ronge, Saskatchewan to Arviat, Nunavut on Hudson Bay - 55 Days a 1000 Miles.
Day #28 Sunday July 07, 2002

I didn't send an e-mail yesterday. I was just too swamped with reality. I flew from Stony Rapids to Fond du Lac yesterday and spend the entire afternoon sampling with Joe Marten . There was a wild, wild west wind, and with about a hundred miles of Lake Athabasca to get wound up, we had a heck of a long day. Then I was out and about all night until midnight visiting. I swear I don't know how Dene ever sleep, with all the coffee they drink. By the time I got home, I was about floating in the stuff.

The Abandoned Three Story Home
  The highlight yesterday was the caribou ribs Joe and I cooked over a fire at lunch. If you can beat caribou meat I'd be surprised.

We flew over Pine Channel on the way over here and it was quite a sight with all the tents set up. I have no idea how many people go there. There are lots. What a great holiday it is going to be for everyone.

This morning we did our last sampling near the community and the wind was even stronger than yesterday. We were boating in swells easily over 6 feet high ... and they were breaking! WILD.

We stopped at the old houses across from the community. Located on the south shore, these houses belonged to families with names like Mercredi, Laffery, and Trallenberg. These were the homes of the white and Metis traders who the Fond du Lac Dene traded with. Now these same names are woven into the communities.. principally in Stony Rapids. These traders barged goods from the west end of Lake Athabasca and, judging from the houses, made a good living. One house is two storey and made of dovetailed logs.  
The Log House
  Another is three storey and is sided with lumber that would have come all the way from Edmonton. Great grassed fields surround the houses that are, sadly, on their last legs. What a great place to set up a house. With caribou to the north and moose nearby to your doorstep, it would have been a comfortable existence.

I am sitting at the airstrip waiting for a charter to come in from Wollaston to pick me up. Then three more days and I can say good-bye to this 10 day job. It won't be soon enough for me. As much as I like to visit up here, I don't need the money, the work is tedious, and in the north most anything that can screw up screws up. The other day the pilot got away with all my maps and map case and GPS etc. I had to do the job by memory alone, and the wind made boating a nightmare. I feel like my spine is two inches shorter.

II may not get to doing an e-mail tomorrow as there will be little new to say and we have two long (over 35 miles one way) boat rides.

Day #29 Monday July 08, 2002

A great day on Wollaston ... but I bet you can all guess I am so ready to leave on the last two-thirds of this trip. I talked to Lynda tonight and she sounds calm enough. But I know better. She is coming unglued while waiting to get going. The first night camped with her is going to be the beginning of the dream again. Reality will fade away and melt into a seamless day to day dream that will soothe me as nothing else seems able to.

In the "small world" category today, I bumped into a solo canoe belonging to Paul Lapointe who is going down the Fond du Lac and then onto lake Athabasca. His hope is to get to the community of Fond du Lac. From there, he is going to get Phillip Stenne from Camsell Portage to pick him up by big boat. I met Paul at a canoe show and Phillip is a friend, hence the small world comment. Paul says hi to Ric Dregiger.

We stopped for lunch and had bannock and tea and caribou ribs. Delicious! George St Pierre brought his grandson Jeffery along. He is eight, and Dene is his first language. As I watched him chomping down on a rib and drinking sugared tea I had a hard time remembering that this is a language and culture at a crossroads. The language can so easily vanish as can the skills to harvest the meat we were eating. George, like others in his age group, refuses to believe this, and says "Bonelye Ayuneh" (crazy whiteman). But the buffalo vanished and with it entire cultures.  
George St Pierre
Aboriginal languages are in crisis world wide. I wish them all luck and I hope the Dene will always have the caribou. Without caribou the Dene would only be a pale shadow of their former selves.
Day #30 Tuesday July 09, 2002

Due to Bill's rigorous schedule to complete his environmental sampling and last minute preparations for the next leg of his journey he did not send in a report

Day #31 Wednesday July 10, 2002

I made sure I got an early start with my pal George St Pierre yesterday. So when Lynda arrived at about 1:30 I was back on the lake. She spent a frantic afternoon packing and re-packing. I got all the samples labeled and the payroll done and soon enough we were finished. We went over to the Band Office and visited the chief and councilors. Lynda showed them her first book of the Dene Elder's series and they asked me to explain the sampling program that I am doing with the communities in the Basin. There is a great fear of the uranium mines and what they might do when they finally are "shut down". It would seem that the "on-site" monitoring that is being done (which is extremely stringent in my personal estimation) is not trusted to any great degree. Sort of the the fox guarding the hen house metaphor. It is hard to get the discussions on environment past the language and cultural differences. As well, the conversation always drift horizontally through several topics, in this case, our trip, land claims, Dene territory taken by Nunavut, Lynda's book, and the sampling. In any case I know for a fact that this particular sampling program is well received and is beginning to be trusted. This is because ownership has been given to the community, and that's all they want. They want to trust that the lakes will be OK when the mines are gone.

The only real complaint I heard was by way of a joke. You see Alec Josie is George St Pierre's son in law and has been lending George his boat for two years for the sampling we are doing. But as he said, "George gets all the money for renting it and I don't get anything." We teased him that he already had George's daughter so George doesn't have to pay him.

On a separate topic, the chief and a few councilors are coming to see us off in the morning. And in Dene tradition they are going to cast a small piece of a tree into the water to brings us good luck. Here's hoping the wind will stop! I told the chief, Angus Joseyounon, that it had to be a piece of a tree, not a pencil like the one he was holding when he said he would come. He promised it would be a real piece of wood and that George Tsannie would throw it in... apparently George has really good luck.

Anyway the dream begins again tomorrow! And reality will slip away once again.


  La Ronge to Arviat Trip Map
Here are the
Sponsors & Introduction Story for the 2002 trip
Check out Bill and Lynda's
2001 trip to the Dubawnt River in NWT & Nunavut.
Bill Layman's bio - with other Trips & Stories by Bill.
Live text edited by
Joan Eyolfson Cadham, freelance writer/editor, Foam Lake Saskatchewan.


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