For those who emailed asking if we survived our ‘winter’ camping trip:

Yes, we did!

It was five star camping … not a prospector’s tent, but a little log structure owned by the band about nine kilometres out of town. We swept out a pile of goose feathers and sand and cooked up some spaghetti on the woodstove, then settled down for a relaxing evening of being unplugged. Our Kobo, Kindle and Playbooks were fully charged and we read the night away. The next morning, we cooked up bacon and eggs. We settled back to read a bit more, when a visitor pulled up. We put on coffee and chatted.

No sasquatch, bigfoot or ghosts … just a relaxing time and a deep, wonderful sleep in the barrens.





The Inuit have their own Big Foot, I found out just before we left for camp.

“He stays near the shore and walks on the beach and eats animals,” one of the administrators at school told me. “You can tell his footprints, because he has six toes.”

He sounds a lot like the Qallupilluq from Robert Munsch’s book “A Promise is a Promise.” In the book a little girl tricks a monstrous being that lives under the sea ice from not eating her.

I think this is a myth to keep children from wandering onto sea ice.


Northern Sasquatch

We are camping this weekend! I am very excited. We’ll have a camp and a makeshift metal stove.

But we’ve been warned …

At Point 4 (four kilometres out of town), an elder with her granddaughter were camping last weekend. She heard scrapping and what sounded like the tossing of pebbles at her tent wall. Finally she got up and walked around her camp to look. She saw nothing, but when she came around front, there was a large hole in the tent.

Similar stories have been told by independent reliable sources.

These occurrences seem to happen near the large bell tower. Coincidence?

Also, The big foot (that’s what the Cree call it) is not meant to be seen… Because if you see it, you will die. A man in the village saw it and came back to tell the story, but he died soon after.

And we still want to go camping?

Wish me luck!


Music, Books, and Tea

Warm sunlight streamed through the library’s window, offering a panoramic view of the Great Whale River. Loreena McKennitt’s mystical music poured out of my playbook, as I sipped peppermint tea from my thermos.

Can life get any better?

Most of the staff left for a teachers’ conference in a more northerly community for the week. I was originally scheduled to go, but it was decided in the last minute that special education technicians need not attend. I was looking forward to the experience, but happy to not to fly and live in uncertain residences.

So ….

I offered to overhaul the school library.

And life even gets better.

I am surrounded by classic tales from my childhood, books I read to my kids when they were little; Dr. Seuss (Green Eggs and Ham), Mercer Mayer (There’s Something in the Attic). Also the series of the Little Critters, Berenstain Bears, The Babysitters’ Club, and Kenneth Oppel’s batwing series … and of course Harry Potter, piles of picture books, books with fabulous nature photographs, atlases …

Yes, life is good!

Indian Tacos

Indian Taco (courtesy of google)

Indian Taco (courtesy of google)

Food is sold via a community Facebook group in both communities we’ve lived in.

Whether for fundraising or to supplement income, lunch plates of fresh game, pasta, pork chops and lasagna can be picked up or delivered for $10 – $20 a plate. Indian tacos appear to be a favourite.

Today Andy picked me up at school.

“I bought lunch,” he said. He pointed at two styrofoam containers on the seat of his car. A student’s wife had made a bunch of Indian Tacos.

I sat down to a puffy round of fry-bread, covered with cooked hamburger meat, lettuce and tomatoes.

It was quite good, but I must admit that I prefer my beloved fry-bread hot, fresh, and plain with a bit of jam.

Today's dessert plate available for pickup

Today’s dessert plate available for pickup

Making Sense of Syllabics

InuUp here, the sole language of instruction in school is in Inuktitut until grade three, when students are introduced to English. The written language of Inuktitut was developed by missionaries in the late 1800s with syllabics to interpret the language. Before, the Inuit had a rich oral tradition, passed on from elders to their children, perfected over the generations of families living together.

I can see the frustration the children are faced with. The syllabic for what looks like the Latin “b” is sounded as “ku”; “d” as “ka”, “L” is “ma”, and “C” is sounded as “ta.”

In grade three, the students need to relearn the accustomed sounds from syllabics to Latin script.

I have noticed that several Northern publications offer readers a choice of reading articles in English, Inuktitut (syllabic), or Inuktitut (Latin). Greenland, for instance, has done away with syllabics, has officially adopted the Latin script. I think it would be easier for students to make the transition, already being accustomed to the sounds of vowels and consonants. It is enriching to learn of your culture and speak the language of the elders, and as many more languages as you are willing to learn.

However, Syllabics are not part of the Inuit culture. The language was developed by Europeans. Would it make sense to do away with syllabics and use Latin lettering? I believe the students would be less frustrated and would have greater success at school, instead of struggling with ABC’s in grade three.

The following is only for those interested in education:  I am continually amazed at the cleverness of my students. I have never worked in the educational field, and am amazed everyday at the improvisation of the grade three/four students in learning their ABC’s, reading, and multiplications.

One of the students I occasionally work is in grade three, but has never been to school, ever. Another student has only been to school sporadically. The first boy is still learning his alphabet with flash cards. He has a lot of problems recognizing the letters and simple sight words. But he does know his “ABC’s” by rote – possible courtesy of Sesame Street. When I gave him a letter to identify, he would walk to the blackboard where a banner of letters of the alphabet has been tacked up. He would identify the shape of the letter and count it out. For instance, if presented with the letter “C”, he would go to the banner and find the letter and then count A … B … C and triumphantly call out “C”

The other boy cannot yet count to 20. He’s never learned, but can do simple multiplication by drawing circles and making marks in each circle. But he is still stuck with counting. How he always came up with the right answer was a mystery, until I saw him counting on a ruler taped to his desk with numbering. He would count with his finger on the ruler, and one finger one on his paper until he reached the right number, for instance 2 x 3 = 6.  He could do multiplications that went up to 20 (as per ruler) but did not know the names of the numbers. This would have normally been learned in grades one and two, but here kids can disappear for months to go to camp or stay with relatives in other fly-in communities, or just stay at home.

I am learning so much by watching the inventiveness of the kids.

Moose Nostrils on the Loop

We decided to ‘do the loop’ this morning. Walking, jogging or running the 5.5 kilometre loop just out of town is part of the lingo here.

After an eclectic potluck thanksgiving dinner the previous evening featuring Salvadorian, Korean, vegan, and traditionally Canadian fare followed by games and music making, a good walk was in order.

Two of Andy’s colleagues walked with us. We chatted and occasionally stooped to pick berries. In the distance we saw stationary ATV and a family standing on an exposed bit of rock.

“Maybe they are looking for berries. We should find out what kind,” I said, always eager to learn more about edible foods.

An elder bent over a pile of what looked like entrails.

“It’s moose nostril,” she explained. Her son had taken a large moose the day before, and she was preparing it. I’ve heard that the nose of a moose is a much coveted delicacy.

She grabbed a large blow torch and began to singe the nostril. Whether she was burning off the hair or cooking it, I have no idea. But for now I will stick to berries.