Richard Van Camp

Cherie Demaline, Metis Governor General Award winning author! :)

I had the priveliege of driving Cherie to Behchoko, NWT, to speak to the students at Chief Jimmy Bruneau School for the NorthWords Writers Festival. Our 13th year. Oh we had fun. Lots of stories. I am so so proud of Cherie. She's a visionary and she's a trailbreaker.

Mahsi cho for sharing your light with the world, Cherie--and your marvelous books!!


Richard Van Camp

A portrait of my aunty Rosa Washie: champion moccasin maker and champion everything maker. :)

Rosa can make anything: moccasins, jackets, vests--you name it.

My cousins say it's hard to get a photo of her smiling, but I find that I can get her to smile when I show up and start sharing stories and try my Tlicho Yatii!



Here's to making our aunties smile.


I'm sure she shakes her head after I leave.



All the best, everyone.




Richard Van Camp


Bea and Reg Campbell from Fort Smith, NWT


Interviewed on January 17, 2015 by Kyle Napier, Carla Ulrich and Richard Van Camp

RVC: So, Bea, I wanted to ask you just as we’re getting set up here, so you came to Fort Smith when?
B: In 1953.
R: 1953 and you were in charge of the TB program?
B: No, I came up here to teach the TB routine. The hospital was going to take all the NWT TB patients and put them in St. Anne’s hospital here. And it was all on the second floor. We came here, another nurse and I, to teach the TB routine to the staff and sisters ‘cause I worked at the camps for many years. I was only up here for two months at that time: 1953. I was up here I think—no, I got here on my birthday, April the 30th, and I left about July 2 or the 3rd. But those were two, we worked hard but it was two good months and then I went back to Edmonton, met Reg…and we went back in 1958. But Reg went to school here and everything. He’s originally from Chip…
R: Beautiful. So where were you born?
B: I was born in Saddle Lake, St. Paul.

R: Oh and what year?
B: In what year?
R: Yes.
B: 1932.
R: 1932.
B: Yeah, so I’m almost 83.

R: Bea, when you were growing up, were you ever taught Cree or Chip?
B: I am so annoyed with my parents. My mother is French and my dad is Cree.
R: Mmmhmm.
B: He spoke fluent Cree. But they decided that they would not teach us English. Teach us French or English. Biggest mistake they ever made because they thought we would be further ahead not knowing it. That’s what my Dad thought. My oldest brother and I--I went to Blue Quills School for four years and then they took us out and then we went to a day school with Irish kids. Because my dad took us out because he thought we would never get past grade 8 if we stayed in Blue Quills. Those were the best years of my life, but my brother---I think he was having problems. My Dad took us out, but in those days they never told you why. To this day I don’t know why we left there. ‘Cause I loved Blue Quills.
R: So you’re saying they never taught you Cree or French?
B: Nor French and I could have had both.
R: Have you noticed that that has changed?

B: I think so. Well, I have certain friends…that come all the time. But when I first came to Fort Smith I remember Christmas with Mrs. Bird and Mrs. Mabbitt. I had not even met them but they went to every house visiting, you know, and I guess around home that’s what we did, too, around Saddle Lake. We always had a lot of visitors.


On traditional birth practices:

B: Well they used to come, take a needle and thread and just, it was only supposed to be certain people that could do that too not everybody could do it, then you’d lay, the woman would lay down and then if it went straight that was a boy but if it kind of went round it was a girl.
K: What?
R: Ohhhhh…
B: (laughing) I think it was kind of, that maybe you know that if the person knew how to do that … and usually they were right, yeah. That was what we were more interested in, in finding out if it was a boy or girl. We still had to wait ‘til the end. I still like people to wait till the end but at least we used to fool around, I guess. You guess what it is: boy or girl, uh?
RVC: So is there anything you would like to share with us?
B: There’s so much to share, isn’t there? I thought that when I left the Health Centre I would travel; then I decided it cost too much to travel; then I became interested in the NWT Seniors, became president to the local Seniors’ and then I’ve been president to the NWT Seniors for ten years or … ten or eleven years. Now I’m Vice President because we still have the same president since I left, but I’ve really enjoyed working. I enjoy working with volunteer things.
RVC: So, for future generations, with all your experience, what would you like them to know about the north?
B: It’s a good place to live. It was a good place to bring up children. I don’t know if it’s a good now as it was then. We … we brought up our children; then we brought up one grandchild who-- that one is a true northerner: he works and he loves the land… I think it was a good place to raise children. There’s still a closeness in Fort Smith. When something happens, we really stick together. Like I say, you like Fort Smith, we love Fort Smith, too, and I don’t know what else I could say about it but it just … just we’ve had so many good years … when my family comes to visit me from, well, they live mostly in Alberta--some in BC--they think this is the greatest place. We have the greatest friends and they came up to our 60th anniversary this summer and they say, “No wonder you never left there. You know, you have so many good friends.” And I say, “Yeah, we have so many good friends up here.” My family brings that to me every time they come. They say, “Oh my God, Beatrice. You live in a good town,” uh? And we do, it’s just…it’s just Fort Smith. I don’t know: it must grow on people.

On language:

K: How did Cree sound, compared to other languages that you’ve heard?
B: We didn’t hear much else. We went to school with a bunch of Irish when we did go to day school. They were people from Ireland that moved there in 1930--same as my Dad and them were born and they had an Irish accent. We picked up the Irish accent like nothing. And then the only thing we ever heard was Cree and French. And when they didn’t want us to know anything they spoke …
K: Gwichi’in?
B: Yeah, my dad understood enough French that he knew when Mom was talking to her relatives that and when they didn’t want us to know they spoke those languages. They didn’t hide it from us so they spoke it so hopefully we wouldn’t know what they were talking about.
RVC: With all the camping you did and all the time on the land what was the greatest gift that that gave you and your family?
B: The togetherness, I guess. You’re always together and you’re eating together and sleeping together, the closeness and freedom. You know, to do whatever you want out there. Eat whatever you want, cook. Cookin’ out I’ve always liked, uh? Yeah.
K: So what is it about Smith that caught you here?
B: I liked Smith when I came up here … I’ve always liked working for the Grey Nuns; they were the greatest people to work for. They were, you know we don’t give them enough credit for the things they did for the health of Fort Smith, uh? I mean, the Mission gave, used their own money off for them. I mean, I know I worked for nothing for years and years at St. Anne’s ‘cause I was a nurse but I wasn’t paid as a nurse; sometimes the nurses they hired from the south they realized in the end they were getting more money than me. But I worked. I just liked it because they were such family people. When I worked for them, if any one of my kids were sick I could just, I’d go with my kids first and they would take over. One of the nuns would take over what I was doing. They were the best people I’ve ever worked for; they taught me so much, yeah. Yeah … best years of my life was St. Anne’s, then over, the beginning years of the Health Centre were good, too.
RVC: My question to you, Bea Campbell, is: what do you want the world to know about the beauty of Fort Smith? What do we have in Fort Smith that the rest of the world doesn’t?
Bea: … the smallness. It’s getting to know each other and know new people right away. We’re small enough for that. What are we … we’re good at welcoming people and I hope we continue to do that and… I gotta think a hundred years from now. We’ve changed so much in the last thirty or forty years we’re not quite as nice as we used to be. Or we can’t be: we have to be more, more careful. I hope we get rid of all the Elder abuse or the financial abuse to seniors. Probably because I’m old now, I think, and I work a lot with seniors. I think my mind is gone to seniors mostly. Um, I hope we find … I hope that we know how to deal with Alzheimer’s and people …

R: What are your favourite memories of Fort Smith?
B: My favourite memories of Fort Smith … all the sports that we used to belong to when we were young, and they don’t seem to, they don’t have that anymore for the kids. We used to, Reg and I used to play ball all summer. And we played ball ourselves; we’d plan tournaments and in the winter we curled and played hockey with our kids so now? Now there doesn’t seem to be… I’d like to see more things in the future for children growing up like in the summertime here. I never see any Ball anymore. All summer we used to play Ball; we even used to go out to Pine Lake, come in with an old truck kids in the back and all…Nobody would come in now for a ball game. Like we used to have six or seven teams: men’s teams and at least four teams of women and that was so much fun. I’d like to see the kids getting into that but nobody … I know they’ve tried. Harry has tried, we’ve tried to help them but we can’t seem to get the … Harry used to get them out when my kids were small but it was up to the parents. But now they, they seem to have too many other things, probably their video games and whatnot. I’d like to see people go back to teaching … if they don’t go back to the land at least go back to these simple little things we used to do around town. Maybe a hundred years from now they will again?
R: Mmhmm that would be nice.
B: Yeah.
R: So, when you were growing up … do you remember Kissing Day? Did they practice that when you were allowed to kiss anyone you wanted on Christmas Day or on New Year’s?
B: (laughing) I don’t … I remember New Year’s and there was so much kissing that you (laughing) that must have been Kissing Day what day … I remember New Year’s going to the Legion especially when Paul Kaeser was mayor; he had what you called their “Open House”,  but he called it something else: it’s a fancy name. Oh it was a great day because you got out and was able to wish everybody … you know you had a drink or just--didn’t have to be alcohol drink but--and then they, they went around the hall, the building and, yeah, there was a lot of kissing. That must have been Kissing Day.
R: Kissing Day. Well I remember when my parents used to live next to JBT in that big yellow house. New Year’s Eve party and, man, I tell you about half an hour before midnight the whole house went bananas with kissing.
B: Yeah that’s the way it was … I don’t think … now it’s hugs I think. Now I’m not so sure.
R: Maybe it’s hugs.
B: I don’t know but, boy, there was just …
R: No hickeys--just hugs!
B: Just too much kissing, you almost ended up with, uh, cold sores or whatever.
R: (laughing)
B: Yeah that was a little too much kissing. Lots of people didn’t like to go, uh? And you tried to get just … hug them but that didn’t always work.
R: Still tried to latch on?
B: Yeah?
R: It’s like lamprey? Eh? Oh holy cow! You’re absolutely right about sports because when you think about it I would have never learned about baseball had it not been for Harry Sudom. And then you think about the champions like Pete Smith. He got all the kids working out, feeling good, so the question is who are the champions now for sports or culture? This town deserves new leaders.
B: Yeah, deserves new leaders, yeah.
R: When it comes to taking students and families back to the land or, you know, with sports and tournaments.
B: And to plan tournaments, like I, the kids remember me as statistician for ball and all the fastball I did that for years uh? So we had some lady come to town one time and she was, she come to teach. She taught me how to score keep and do stats so I did that for years and years yeah. And I really really enjoyed it so …

Carla: I’m just curious just for myself. I don’t know--I think you touched on it the last time a little but you said … did you come here and then meet Reg? Or you met him and then came here or …
B: No I came here in 19 … the year of the Coronation--oh that was an interesting year, too. Only for two months to teach the TB routine at the old hospital; it was then the new hospital. And then I went, I met Sandy … Sandy Loutitt was here and he like the … well there was two of us came and he liked the girl I was with and he wanted to bring a blind date and Reg was my blind date! Yeah …
C: Really …
B: That was in 1953.
C: And where did you guys go on your date?
B: In Edmonton, we met on our date in Edmonton.
C: Oh, it was in Edmonton.
B: Yeah we met back in Edmonton when Sandy brought … we were both back after our two months here. And that’s where we’d go when we went out for supper. Then I think we went over--it used to be the PanAmerican and tea had just finished up, and they were having a party. They took us home because the party was just too rough for us, they went back. They told us only after.
R: What’s NT? Northern Transport?
B: Yeah Northern Transportation. They used to come up here. Oh it was a great place to come in the summertime--holy man! Go to dances--all kinds of men to dance with and, yeah, we never lacked a date or anything. There was no place to go except to the dance or to a movie in the new movie theatre, but they used to show movies in the old Legion upstairs. They had dances in there, movies in there, and …
R: The Legion in Fort Smith?
B: Yeah that Legion. Yeah …
R: Oh, gee. I didn’t know they used to show movies there. I didn’t even know about dances.
Carla: Oh, so Reg is from here?
R: Reg is from Fort Chip but went to school here lots; he knows everybody from here. Yeah, Reg was born in Fort Chip and his mother was widowed young, and she used to come and work on the boats and Reg would go to school here. She lived here lots, like everybody from Fort Chip and Fort Smith has a lot of relations, uh? Yeah, that’s how that went. He’s more from here than I am. But people when they had the school reunion in the 80’s, I think people forgot that I never went to school here. (laughter) I was right in and I didn’t know them. I said, “Don’t forget I didn’t go to school here. Reg did.”
R: Thank you, Bea. That’s it. You’ve given us something very beautiful. Again, mahsi cho.

Bea: Okay. Thank you!

Archie Smith, Chipewyan Elder, Fort Smith, NWT

Archie Smith

A: Hello boys.
C: So I’m just going to put this microphone on you.
R: (to Archie) Microphone
A: Oh!
C: Can I just put this microphone on you?
A: Are you going to put it on my ear or what?
R: Onto your shirt!
C: Clip it on your shirt.
A: Clip it on my nose! (laughter) What language we use? Just straight English or what?
R: You can use whatever you want. Cree?
A: I’m not Cree.
R: Chip?
A: Chip.
R: Oh nice! Wow!
A:  But you guys don’t understand though you’ll think I’ll talk about you right in front of me.
K: That’s what we’re hoping to do is help revitalize interest in aboriginal languages. So, if we asked you a question … cause I don’t speak Chip. I don’t speak Cree really either.
A: You do I don’t. Only one word I know of in Cree is how to say excuse me after 43 years of (inaudible) Cree.
R: How do you say ‘excuse me’?
A: ‘Oops.’ (laughing) That’s quite a hard word after 43 years to learn.
K: I figure that’s the biggest lesson after marriage that you learn is. So, but yeah if we were to ask you questions in English and because you speak Chip, if you wanted to answer in Chip.
A: Don’t matter. English might be a bit better for everybody to understand me.
K: Well, we can work to translate it after if … in fact we might prefer it a little bit if you were to speak Chip.
A: I don’t feel comfortable when people don’t understand Chip. I feel comfortable with what language that they understand.
R: Uh huh …
A: Some words I could … be saying something different and people try to listen to it and “oh hey that’s what he said wrong, he shouldn’t be saying that.” (laugh)
K: Oh, everyone’s got their own different …
A: Well you know how people are just … an then I give them all the directions and you don’t expect them …
K: And everyone’s right.
A: Well, they’re right when they’re explaining what …
K: (laughter)
R: Archie where were you born?
A: A little settlement they call the Rocher River or Russie River by Great Slave Lake, just about 2 miles upstream from about Great Slave Lake. I was born there and raised.
R: What year were you born?
A: 1942
K: 1942?
A: Yeah.
K: Wow.
R: How many people lived there in that camp?

A: At that time, it was a trapper’s town eh? Just I’m sure 150 or 200 people maybe? Maybe, maybe I’m over doing it cause when we were kids we didn’t keep track of how many adults were in the population we only kept track of how many kids were playing around with us. That’s the only thing we were interested in, never mind when we see some family we know they’re there. Didn’t really pay attention how many could have been around there. I remember they are a trappers town anyways. They had two stores at one time, they had a Hudson Bay Company it was called, now it’s Northern Store but back then it was Hudson Bay Company then it was general store like Kaeser’s, the old couple running it. Ed Dumont and Rose Delmont. Fur trader, they were fur traders. People trapped there all winter from the fall. They would trap all winter till Christmas and then after, just a few days ago after Christmas then everybody, well some stayed in Russian River some used to go to Fort Resolution cause they’re all families Fort Resolution not that quite far apart. We usually go by dog team, no skidoos back then so we use, everybody used dog team. Sometimes you go by the lakeshore, or as later on they made that cross country cutoff maybe about 20-30 miles, that road instead of going around the Great Slave Lake. That’s how they used to live. And just before Christmas then or first freeze up we’d get a whole herd of caribou there. One day my dad used to stand right outside the door, the cabin there, we used to shoot caribous by water hole there on the river there. That’s how much caribous there was around there didn’t have to go very far. Whole bunch, the river used to be just packed with caribou and he’d just pick out what he’d need not slaughter a whole bunch … he’d take about three or four like that, that’s enough for a family and everyone else was doing the same … you don’t … and then when they do need more meat they go hunting a little bit, they go out a little bit out away so they have caribou meat all winter … they had lots of meat. It was good trappin’ then I imagine I was a little bit young later on I started trapping myself. I didn’t do it that well. Not like the other people, I think. Always trapping with my brother in law, Ray Beck his name was. We’d go up Taltson, Deskenatlata Lake all that we hit or you call Pontas (Found Fish) River used to be "Pontas" now they call it Rutledge River so I’m lost if I go there, they changed the name.
R: Yes.
A: We used to travel by dog team follow that river all the way up. Where do you call the Rontas lake used to be Hontas lake before I don’t know when they changed it. I noticed after I got to Fort Smith here that they changed the name.
R: How long have you lived in Fort Smith?
A: Well to start off with I was working at Thompson Hydro dam. I put 18 months in there and I come to the fort on the long weekend 1964. You know it was still the long weekend here.
R: Wow. And do you still love Fort Smith after all these years.
A: Well yeah I seem to be comfortable here cause people are friendly I got used to it in here when you settle down in here …
(police scanner or radio)
R: Was that the police scanner?
A: My wife, look after this I don’t …
R: oh …
A: I know … I came here the long weekend in Fort Smith. Stayed here … I hardly went to school myself. I was brought up in Rocher River, hard little settlement I didn’t leave there till I was about 20 I imagine. Back and forth to Resolution and didn’t get to learn to talk (inaudible) till I was about 15 or 16 years of age. Come to work at Taltson Dam when I was about 22 and I started to work construction group, all different construction that’s where I pick up my language and also at the bar where you learn. There’s lots of different languages there. Some, for earlier I started using those languages I used in the bar but I realized it was a different language than what you’d want to use than the bar. (?) So I hardly used that false language they use around bars or parties.
R: That’s right. Didn’t George Kurszewski used to live in this house?
A: Well he was born and raised here
R: Yes
A: I didn’t see him till he was a young fellow after I got to Fort Smith. I know his mother and dad, well his mother is still alive but his dad’s gone, he’s got his brothers and sisters here.
R: Isn’t this their old house? The Kurszewskis?
A: Yeah it’s right across from the MacDougall Centre
R: Oh okay.
A: That’s right where I know. I think Kurszewski, George’s nephew stays there now.
R: But didn’t George used to live in this house with his dogs?
A: Not in this one.

R: No?

A: I built this one myself.
R: Oh you built this one. Where did George live with his dog team?
A: Just two doors down.
R: Oh two doors down.
A: Yes, you can’t see but it’s behind this other building ….
R: Oh!
A: See? Top of the building … the roof?
R: Yes! I used to deliver papers. Slave River Journal, Edmonton Journal and I was always afraid of his dogs cause I was afraid they were gunna bite me.
A: Yeah, no.
R: Yeah, they’re tough dogs!
A: Well, maybe they think you’re going there to feed ‘em.
(laughter; that’s funny actually lol)
R: Every Thursday this guy comes to feed us! He’s getting cheap he never does, let’s bite him.
A: Yeah that’s the only time the dogs usually bark when they’re hungry and somebody coming eh? Figure they’re gunna get fed. These racing dogs are not mean like ordinary pet dogs. Those are the more dangerous ones. But not this one I have here. But one I had before, quite dangerous had to get … put him down. (inaudible but 11:20 - 11:28 talks about reasons he had to have his dog put down) … Pretty dangerous, so I had to get rid of him. He was a good watchdog though, nobody would get out of their vehicle till I’m there, he was too dangerous.
K: So you brought up languages before and uh, how you’ve kind of shift between languages at different times. (sorry I’ll speak to you … *aside to Archie I think) … You brought up languages and how sometimes at different times of your life you’ve had to shift to a different language and learn different ways like when you were in your teenage years or in your twenties when you went to work in construction you learned English from the construction side of things. I’m curious. When you’re not thinking in English, when you’re thinking in Chipewyan, how er, uh does it affect how you view the world maybe? Uh, in English you might be thinking one way but if you were to perceive the world with the Chipewyan mentality, is it different?
A: Well not much cause I work with people that talk Chip and English as well, that’s much older than me. I wasn’t uh, I don’t know the meaning in English I ask them how to say, ask them how to pronounce a word that I want to know. That’s how I catch on, even when I’m working by myself, I repeat myself saying this word over and over and over till I pronounce it right. I think anyway. So from there on I learned how to talk in English So …
K: Why did you have to learn English?
A: This is mostly, wherever I work  most people talk English. Just the odd people talk Chipewyan with me … just around town here a few people talk Chip but not very often they use their language, just the odd ones they get around they start talking Chip and the other people give us dirty looks and think we’re talking about them therefore it just kind of threw us off. Off our language, we feel kinda guilty when we talk our own language. We never talk about anybody, we just talk about things: what we done and what happened to us … something we did wrong or … that’s how we, and we start laughing sometimes with the jokes or what we done seems to be funny and then people give us dirty looks figurin’ we’re laughing at … cause they didn’t understand what we’re talking about. Therefore people talk and don’t understand English or anything I’d hate to … I don’t talk Chipewyan very often.
R: Mmmhmm
A: Just, just the older people.
K: No youth? You don’t know of any youth that speak? Any young people that speak Chipewyan?
A: Well, some do but they don’t want to talk it, it’s just a few words they don’t understand.
K: Why? Why don’t they want to talk it do you think?
A: I don’t know. Chipewyan is a hard language to learn. When you finish one sentence in English you start from there backwards seems like it. Backwards, our English is backwards I don’t know which is backwards.
A: It’s like, and you gotta twist your tongue around when you talk and you don’t pronounce your words right you’re completely saying something different. (laughing)
K: I heard you need a lot of spit when you speak Chip.
A: No but you need several on your tongue. So your tongue could coil around. (laughing)
K: Do you think it’s important for the younger generations to keep up with these languages and this culture from …
A: Yeah they should, they should cause … I try to talk to them in Chip they just all laugh at me … they said “you sound funny”. It’s not that I sound funny it’s just I’m trying to direct them back to where they came from, where their parents and everybody else come from. But the younger generation, they don’t see it that way. And after I got to the force (divorced? hard to tell) a lot of people talk in Chip back then. And some, most of them would talk in Cree around us we don’t understand them and then they’d be talking amongst themselves and then the rest of us we’d stand there and they’d look at us talking away and “what are you talking about us or, or maybe they’re saying something good about us, something bad maybe. We don’t seem to pay attention to so then we tell them “oh we’re not Cree we can’t understand Dené” they giggle and say “sorry” then they start to talk our language. ‘We figure you’d understand' that’s why they start talking, that’s the way a lot of people are.
R: What makes the Chipewyan different from other groups around here? What are the different beliefs that they carry that’s different from the Crees?
A: I think they all do just about equal things. Nothing much different just their languages they do a little bit different. They explain things a little bit different you know in Cree, I dunno, when they go trapping they do everything all equal, all the same as what Chipewyan people do so nothing much different of living, trapping or living off of land.
R: Like, did you ever encounter being on the land and there might be fish or medicines that a Cree would use that a Chipewyan would never use? Did you ever encounter that?
A: No not really. My grandfather used to use a lot of medicine but I never got into it you know he was gunna teach me but never have time, too busy playing, not interested in …  so later on I said “I should have done that,” it was too late then. Grandfather was too old to do, get out there, he tried to explain to me but I couldn’t understand what kind of things to take. I don’t, You don’t want to poison anybody, myself or anybody, I never did try.
R: How long did you have a dog team for?
A: Till ’64
R: Mmm. And what’s the secret to raising a good dog team?
A: I don’t know it wasn’t a secret. Just that you give them good food and feed ‘em steady not half starve, then they go good. You talk to them just like you’re talking to your family and you understand well. When I used to have dogs, we used to have five or six dogs and … oh a straight harness! Not like side by side like horses now. That’s how they call racing dogs but then they have straight harness back then. So when I start hooking up my dogs I’d go from lead dog first. I. I guess what they do, is I train my dogs good I go along, I untie them they’re all running loose and when I get to the harness I call them by name they come there. I put them in harness they sit there and wait till, till I put the last one in then they’re ready to go. One time I had dogs that couldn’t wait … was that second year I think it was? I’d started trapping with my brother Ray (?) Ray still had young dogs. Ray was uh, had  big dogs just when I put my last dog in they keep jumping I couldn’t, didn’t give me time to untie my toboggan there. I had to chop the line with my knife and take off. Go out like that. For the first few, I don’t know three or four miles we hardly slowed down first few (inaudible) … they didn’t want to stop, they kept going that’s how lively they are in there, a lot of caribous run too and sometimes they can go get on the lake whole bunch of caribous there, the dogs go crazy just grab your rifle and jump off and let em go. The first caribou you shoot and they all bunch up there and they’re all tangled they don’t go nowhere else after that. They don’t all fight at once like some say they do they just try to jump on that caribou that’s down (inaudible sorry R, really thick accent 21:07 mark) so then we shoot what we need and we come back and we straighten out our dogs. And then they all wait for us there. When you train your dogs well it’s good they listen to you. A few times when we’re going across to the bush there, what you call the portage, crossing to the lake. One time I got out close to the lake, I was checking my trap all of a sudden my dogs they took off on me. They left me behind I run to the lake I start whistling at them that lead dog heard me and made a big circle and come back, come back to me and then we started back out again where we were headin’. That’s how I guess I trained my dogs. I think a few people did the same as well, they would train their dogs like that. They’d look after you when you were travelling with dogs. You know where, you know where the traps are set, you be going, going and then you’re dead stopped … the trap’s right there. You gotta make sure there’s an animal caught in there, you take it out and you threw it in the toboggan right away and jump on that toboggan and just unleash and leave it behind until the next trap and do the same again.
R: What’s a good bait for lynx?
A: Lynx, well we make our own bait. We use lynx guts.
R: What do you use?
A: Lynx guts, yeah. Out of lynx, yeah you gotta catch lynx first.
R: Oh and you use guts? Their own guts?
A: Yeah
R: And the lynx are drawn to the smell of the guts of other lynx?
A: Yeah well you take some parts or cuts, what you use.
R: Wow. Cause I was told rotten wash (?) is really good for lynx.
A: No.
R: No? How about peanut butter and catnip?
A: It would be good for squirrels I guess. (laughing)
R: (laughing) Okay! Well what about uh Aqua Velva? They put Aqua Velva on the trap, the lynx they love it.
A: I don’t know some people they put it on their face so they don’t freeze their face.
R: Yes I bet. I bet.
A: We use that, that’s where you use cat nip.
R: Yes.
A: Cat nips some … like this. This is a harpoon bow, smell like peppermint that’s what they use. We used to call it cat nip. Put a few drops in your bait, mix it. If you put too much that lynx will start rollin’ before you get to your trap. You gotta put it just so because get closer, can sense it before you’re getting to the trap. The first time I didn’t know, I put too much and could see where the link had been rolling around before the trap, before I got too close to the trap. I told my brother, I asked my brother in law “how come the link won’t go to my trap?” He said “let me smell your bait,” he did, smelled it. He said “oh you put too much cat nip.” I didn’t realize I put too much of it, just put a few little drops in there.
R: Ohhh.
A: He had some made that wasn’t mixed yet. He gave me some of that I mixed it then it wasn’t as strong as it was. Then you start catching the odd link. ____ (?) is the best bait for all animals I think. (couldn’t catch the name, it’s driven me nuts).
R: Rotten conie.
A: Well, we used to hang them.
R: Yeah.
A: For our dogs as well in the winter time, in the fall and we all used to hang fish. White fish and conies. We used to take ‘em out, use them for bait and feed our dogs as well. We’d go through lotta good sized lakes as well for good fishing. And haul somewhere like Rotless (?) River it used to be called. Hontas is it, it doesn’t freeze.
(pup barking)
A: Hey! Get over here!
R: (laughing)
A: That river don’t freeze, you had to hug your shore most of the time, just odd place there you can cross the river or … used to catch a lot of lynx. At that time lynx are … wasn’t quite that much in price. Top price, sixty dollars maybe?
R: wow.
A: Back then the lynx are only about twelve dollars, we never hardly trapped ‘em. Lynx are about the best. We used to go for link most of the time. Fox was only worth what … two dollars. Sometimes not even worth skinning it.
R: They’re saying this is the big year for wolverine, hey? Wolverine, there’s lots of them now.
A: There is yeah. Well, it used to be a few wolverine over there too but not all that many. Hard animals to catch. If you do catch them, wherever you can reach them they’re good to hunt. One time I caught a wolverine, had a couple of big traps on the paw. One in front and one in the back and I caught it. Small little trap double spring, number 3 I think it was? Trap. That’s how I caught it. He stayed, I don’t know how he stayed he couldn’t fight no more he had a trap on the front paw and the back where the front paw was caught in the trap that’s where in the trap he got caught. So I guess I was just lucky I guess it was like getting two excellent traps.
R: Wow. Wow, so he dragged those two traps from somebody else’s line?
A: Had to be. I don’t know, there’s trap lines all along, all around and I don’t know how far they go or the traps on the pond. I guess they had to be pretty hungry though … cause he can’t get any big trap on the pond … ( a bit hard to decipher I think the last part is right.)

R: I wanted to ask you, were you given any teachings on the northern lights? When you were a little kid? Did they ever tell you anything about the northern lights?
A: Not really but we used to monkey around with it.
R: Mmhmm, call them?
A: Yeah or we’d click our fingernails like that …
R: Whistle?
A: Whistle like that’s all that comes down to it. You could hear it, it’s just like a crumpling of a plastic bag or something (rustles bag heh neat). Sounds something like this … and it comes down close to you. When it gets closer, us kids we’d all run to the house and get scared (laughter) and the old people would tell us “one of these nights they’re gunna take you away!” So we’d stay in the house for the rest of the evening. Till the next day we’d forget again, try again.
R: Were you ever given any teachings about animals warning you about someone getting ready to pass away?
A: Not really
R: No? Like you remember Irene Sanderson, hey? Like one day she was getting ready to play Bingo and a raven came outside of her window and started to talk and that was her Dad coming to say good-bye … her Dad had passed away. But that’s how her family said goodbye was a raven would always come outside her window.
A: The ravens oh yeah I understand too. The ravens they squawk after dark and they bring you bad news. Even the squirrel if you hear a squirrel chattering after dark it means something is not right. That’s the only two (inaudible) I know of. The raven and the squirrel. And the other one uh, not sure ‘bout the only thing I know about that.
K: So what we’re doing with the book and the movie that we’re creating is we’re hoping to share a lot of the stories and their traditional teachings and we’re hoping to pass down a lot of these learnings. And so, what Richard had asked too, in our last interview was maybe if there was some traditional indigenous teachings that you had that had been taught growing up, if there was anything that you would like to share so that the people watching or reading would be able to maybe listen and live by some suggestions?
A: Well in the springtime after open water I do lots of culture of salt river like I do dry fish cutting where you get meat. I show the students how to cut dry meat and plus beaver hunting or uh, muskrats, ducks, whatever you can get in spring. I show them how to prepare it. How to cook it, what you do with the ducks, you make duck soup. Or the beavers, you just boil it or roast it whole over a fire. I never heard about anybody making a beaver soup. (laughing) That’s how you make a muskrat soup you just either boil it or roast it lever a fire or inside a little stove, cook stove if you have. But back then, there was no cook stoves out on the land. They used to have this drum well they used to call it they put it on the stove pipe it’s sort of like a ten gallon barrel hooked onto a stove pipe. Set it up there hooked on a little door that’s called a drum oven as they used to call it.
R: Pretty smart.
A: Yeah we used to cook our bannock in there, our roast meat whatever you want that’s the way we used to cook our bannock on the road, otherwise you had to cook it on the stove or else open fire when you were out on spring hunting you don’t carry a stove. You make fire out on the rocks or so, then you cook your bannock on open fire. For your meat first you get set a frying pan on the coals but not flaming just hot coals you put your frying pan on, then the bottom of your bannock is cooked then you stand it up on the sides then the heat from the fire cooks them from the outside. That’s how we used to cook our bannock. I hardly see anybody do that now. Springtime I get a bunch of students, clubs of students at camp and I try to teach them how to do it. Some would say “oh you get some ashes in there” … little bit of ash won’t hurt. (laughing) Anyways, when I’m not there they put it on top of the grill, like on top of the stove that’s how they make their bannock not from standing up from the heat of the camp fire. The Kinnet (? wow I just butchered something maybe the word for bannock?) looks just like it’s baked in an oven when you do that.
R: Do you remember Dave King?
A: Yeah I used to go with him down the Salt River when I first came to Smith
R: Yeah, what a great cook hey? He was a good bush cook …
A: Yeah.
R: Out at Tsu Lake?
A: Yeah that time I come to Smith he was down there well, he was in and out of there had steady work. His brother had a cabin there (inaudible) his cabin’s still up there. You know where that Walter, Walter house? Next building, that old building? That’s Dave King’s old brother. Suze they call him, Suze King’s old building that’s where he used to stay. Just about year round I think we get to go down there in springtime and see them. Well in the spring time there’s people all along the Salt River in little camps here and there cutting dry fish and we used to go around helping them. Like getting fire wood for them, pull their fish out of the net, hack fish up for them. Then there used to be a little water hole back quite a few, oh a mile back and it was muskeg water. That’s where we used to haul drinking water for them. We used to go all along from camp to camp and after I’d do all my chores I’d get a big pay though. One bowl of soup and a piece of bannock and tea (laughing) that was my pay! I didn’t ask for any pay but that’s how they … watch how they cut dry fish and everything. They didn’t have no table to work on, they all had a little cardboard box they had on the ground and the old ladies would be sitting down just cuttin’ away. When it’s time to hang it over a rock on over the fire they just spring right up and hang up … their legs were never crumpled up or nothing. I tried that later, I tried sitting on the ground and cuttin’ oh I have a hard time to get up. (laughing) Oh finally I rigged myself up a table to work on that way I don’t have to sit on the ground to work. Well the old people used to watch just sitting on the ground they’re much healthier than I am I guess.
R: Do you ever harvest rat root?
A: My sister did yeah.
R: What about bear root? No?
A: No. And I never tried like that. There’s two different types of rat root one’s poison and one's a regular one. So I don’t know which is which so I don’t want to bother. You know if I need rat root I go see my sister and give me some from russia or up where they collect rat root or that’s where they used to collect. Around here I don’t know where they find any but people find some here too. I don’t know what area they go to but I’ll never do that. That kind. Only medicine I know is root gum (?) when you get cut or something I take this sticky one. Real pine use you put it on your finger or wherever you get cut, put it on the wound and wrap it up. Leave it like that for a few days and … about three or four days finally could feel it floatin’ or floppin’ around you take that out and just see a little scar that’s it. It doesn’t get infected either, draws all that poison out that’s the only medicine I know. We used to get this hard Swiss gum kinda pinkish colour we used to chew that, cure a throat and everything. That was our bubblegum, sorry bubblegum I guess that’s the last time I ever chewed gum when I was younger never bothered chewing gum after.
R: Archie, did you ever see a UFO?
A: Never did.
R: Did you speak to people who have seen UFOs?
A: Yeah the ones that have smoked their tobacco, I guess.
R: You’ve never spoken to anybody who’s seen a UFO?
A: Don’t know some people have tried to explain things. They’ve seen some they’ve said.
R: Mmhmm.
A: I never did see it
A: One time I did stay in Salt River above my cabin there. I think people down the road from me. every night they see odd object, UFO. I don’t know what they say. People ask me what I see if I seen any light like that. Only thing I ever see is the northern lights but nothing else.
R: Mmhmm. Have you ever seen the little people?
A: Never did see anything.
R: No? But you did hear lots of stories about them?
A: Lots of them but I think they’re just faerie tales.
R: Mmmhmm.
A: That’s what I think. And people go for little joy rides here see cougar down the highway. My wife and I we go all directions every day when she’s not working and if she’s working then I’m on my own on the highway. Never see a cougar or nothing.
R: No.
A: No never did run across anything. I see a lot of bears, odd little scrubby fox. But I never did see a cougar or anything. So that’s what I don’t believe is people see cougar. People say “just go for a ride down on this bypass here, by Eldon’s road there? Somebody run into a cougar there. I said, “I go there every half hour my wife and I every noon.” You won’t see it. And they’ll drive around till they burn a whole tank of gas and a (inaudible) sometimes every season we rescue some people, some people be laying on the sidewalk and get the RCMP to check them out and they’re okay they’re just passin’ out. Seen somebody stuck in a snow bank one time on a ski doo trail we rescued that person. His boots were full of snow he got drunk, couldn’t get up so we had to haul him over to (inaudible 41:21) we did somebody good there that night. So that’s why we most of the time just to drive around just to see if anybody needs any help like that.
R: Wow
K: I think a lot of this, a lot of what we’re doing has to do with sharing stories of different ways of living off the land. I was wondering if you had a story that really, really rings with you that you think other people might be able to learn from. Um if you might want to share that story with us so we could …
A: Well, like culture work would be good. Like I said when I first come to Smith everybody had camped down Salt River and each spring I’m the only one that do most of the dry fish making and sometimes the students come and I try to share with them so I’ll teach them how it’s done. To cut fish or whatever it is to beavers or whatever we get there. Share with them every spring. And show them how to cook on a open fire not like cooking on the range like this. So, a lot of different ways of cookin’. That’s what they should be, should be continuing doing. Some students are interested in doing that work some don’t seems like they’re not interested but when I first come to Smith everybody did that, did just for their own use. but now just teaching to keep their culture going so I’d like to see more people get on the land and do things like that. There is hardly anybody setting up now. Set a net and everybody come asking for fish off me and I say “help yourself in the net are you scared to go in the boat or no?” I enjoy living on the land it’s the best life, you got no boss. The only boss there is is yourself. If you don’t get anything done there’s nothing done therefore you have to do everything. You’ll be busy all day struggling, struggling, night comes you did what you done and your’e busy all day and you don’t see nothing done but it’s a good life.
K: So why do you think it is that uh, like you said the younger people or people these days they kind of don’t uphold that tradition of living off the land um, why do you think it is that that is happening. That there’s that disconnect?
A: Well, they’re having too much of an easy time now. They can’t get away from tv and they gotta have that remote sitting there, play games and if they’re hungry the welfare will give them something to eat. Besides that if they could live off the land I dunno. Sometimes I used to take some people out on the land two days or the most they stayed they had to get to town. They had a welfare appointment or something. They had to get back to town with some excuse, a couple of arm lengths of excuse to get to town so … I don’t know. I’d rather be in the bush than be in the town. People say there’s dangers out in the bush, I think it’s more dangerous in town than out in the land. I feel safe when I’m out there.
K: So with the land as your teacher right? Cause you almost learn about yourself living on the land, I’m wonder what do you’ve learned on the land that you wouldn’t have learned in town?
A: Well, like surviving in town an getting different kind of food. All that instead of going to Kaeser’s or Northern Store to get some meat or canned meat. You use wild meat, you can eat chickens, ducks you use things like that. Rabbit, rats and beavers. I know there’s a lot of students that come out and I cook a pot of beaver meat or something “I wouldn’t eat that!” Cause they never did try it. I ask them “did you try it?” “I don’t like it!” “why you tried some?” and said “no” “well how you know if you don’t like it if you didn’t try it” so keep trying until I notice they start eating it when I’m not watching they start to spit it out. I know but I don’t say nothing and just tell them “if you want to live off the land you have to eat all this kind of food from the land otherwise you’ll starve.” And I tell them if you run out of meat you can’t run to the northern or Kaeser’s store to get chunk of meat. You have to hunt for yourself. Hunt rabbits or chickens whatever, ducks; well chickens are a lot easier birds to get not like ducks. Ducks are kind of wild anytime you get ducks it’s springtime. But chickens are all over the place and fish is the easiest thing to catch too. Fish you just string your net out or if you have a hook, just toss your line to out there and you catch a fish anytime. You gotta know how to prepare it that’s what I tell them. Like moose are the hardest thing you have to hunt for … buffalo they’re not gunna be waiting for you there. So fish is the easiest thing for you to get so fish is good for you. “I don’t like fish!” They say some kids. I tell them “fish is a brain food” Some kids you couldn't  make a point to them to eat fish I keep telling them a little fairytale. I tell them when I was born I had no brains till I started eating fish and then I got brains.
R: laughing.
A: They all look at one another and then whispering and finally you could see some trying to eat fish now. (laughing) Then you hear “oh too much bones!” and then you tell them “bones are alright everything have bones” you just gotta be careful and when you eat fish, like my grandpa always told me, when you eat fish you think about otter when you swallow that bone you think about otter … bone dissolve, seems like it.
R: Wow I’ve never heard that before.
A: Yeah that’s what grandfather was telling me so I keep telling that to the kids and some white kids. I don't know if it’ll work for white kids or orange or other kids  but I keep telling them it seems to work for me sometimes when I eat fish I accidentally swallow a little bone, feel it down my throat then I think about otter then I eat bannock or something, bread, something dry and somewhere the bones dissolves. I don’t if that bannock takes it away or just that otter idea (laughing). But I tell them eat, otters live on fish all their lives they eat fish and bones they don't get choked. That’s what my grandfather told me.
R: Smart.
A: Yeah. Try that one day.
R: Okay I will. I’ll teach that to my son
A: Don’t eat bones on purpose though. By accident then you’ll probably swallow a bone but the collars those are the ‘y’ bones, little fine bones that’s one that gets stuck in your throat.
R: Thigh bones?
A: Y bones
R: Y bones oh ‘y’ …
A: You know the one goes like this? They are straight like a ‘y’ bone is what they call them. That’s all along the backbone that part. You come down to my cabin in springtime I’ll show you how to filet them and dry fish and everything.
R: When can we come? April?
A: In May after open water. First part in May okay?
R: Okay, we'll come to your camp.
A: The camp’s down there you know where the old gas bar used to be?
R: Yes
A: Well you know where Danny MacDonald had camp?
R: What about Maria Brown is that where Maria Brown’s cabin is?
A: No no this highway
R: Oh okay
A: Remember where Danny Macdonald had a house? That same location.
R: Oh okay!
A: Danny and ___ ’s house I got that lot. So I built my own cabin. It’s easy to find you follow that old road there’s two roads there but if you follow the new road right where that new gas bar is there’s a road branching off to the left on the way down. And you head down that road there my camp’s across it. I’m the only person with a roadside mailbox so you can’t miss it. (awe heehee I love his story)
R: Oh! Okay May we’ll go … May!
A: May around … people usually go around 8th of May to the 20th around there. I guess. So if you come into my camp I have a big tipi standing there. Got a smokehouse and there’s a sign there where my niece carved out the Beavers, Beaver’s hideaway with our name on there (is this the name of the camp? Might have heard wrong sorry 21:00) and on our mailbox I put Smith and Smith. Easy to find, but people go on the other road they can’t find my camp. I accidently run into it now, it’s closer to the river that’s why. Well there’s two roads side by side you know, right where the gas bar used to be you just go past that you know towards the river that’s where my camp will be. I have a long driveway though from here. Far from here to the fence across it it’s far from off the road (?) it’s quite a drive … drive way there.
R: Do you like the Bible in the Moose? (Uh, I’m not sure i heard this right either 20:00)
A: Yeah I like everything under it I take. That’s what they call guts, some people call it inside. That’s when they kill a moose or caribou only thing that’s left is stomach. That’s all that’s left I take everything else.
R: Wow, who taught you to be such a great hunter?
A: I learned by myself but to start off with till I started going with my, getting out trappin’ with my brother in law Ray Beck. He been trapping since he was a kid. I guess a lot older than I was
R: Mmhmm
A: He taught a lot of things to the white man right? Where he lived, just like those natives there. And they didn’t like store meat or anything they’d get meat from the land that’s all they ever live on. There was no turkey on with the kids. Christmastime my mother used to cook a caribou head or a moose head and all the good parts of the moose or caribou that was sour Christmas dinner. Just lately I start seeing turkey. First time when I was a kid I forgot that old store manager he brought in some turkey. My Dad got one, cook it. We didn’t like the taste of it, it was too dry. Not like wild meat, moist, juicy like. But this turkey was too dry, we didn’t go for it. We didn’t like it that much but we still ate, we ate some other wild meat at the same time. It’s the first time I’ve seen turkey, was I don’t know how old I was 12 years old maybe.
R: When you had dogs, are there any poisons around that dogs had to be careful of? Any sleigh dogs?
A: No never noticed any poison.
R: No? Like mushrooms that could make them sick or anything?
A: They don’t eat that kind. The only thing they eat is fish, fish or meat. They don’t eat no other kind.
R: I had heard there’s a medicine for dogs and that’s sulfur. if a dog’s ever sick you put sulfur on the inside of their mouth.
A: I don’t know I never heard that.
R: Ah.
A: Our dogs were never sick they were healthy and ate off the land. And their skin used to be just, their hair used to just be shiny. Just like it was spruced up and always healthy. Sometimes we, not too often we’d feed caribou meat to the dogs mostly bones like back bones, neck bones they hardly any problem. But any kind of meat we hardly fed to our dogs. Mostly fish cause we’d get a lot of fish in Taltson River. People used to hang fish off until the the fall, they had fish stages down by the … (Kyle offers tea, nice ;) ) People have fish hangin’ all along the shore and somebody else run short of dog food, they’d ask their neighbour or whoever ‘got fish’ and you get a couple sticks of fish for the dogs. Sure was no problem, nobody stealing anything then. It’s all ___ out there by the river people ask before they take it. Nobody ever steals anything just “go ahead and take it” only then they’d go and tell them which stage your fish was hanging on. Nobody thought about stealing anything. You going down the trap line, you see an animal caught in someone else’s trap you either hang it for them or if you know who’s trap line it is you carry that fur between the trails, you meet ‘em again you give it back “just pick up this fur from a certain trap”. That way people got along good. But nowadays you go someplace people borrow it and they don’t tell you who borrowed. So it’s hard to … (small laugh)
R: So question for uh, what do you like to use when you’re drying meat?
A: Poplar is the best.
R: Rotting Poplar?
A: No.
R: Green?
A: Half green and then they smolder.
R: Oh I didn’t know that.
A: Well when you, you wanna make a fast fire you use willows. But willows they spark too much. Sparks would be flying all over if you use that for drying meat or your clothes would be catching fire and you don’t want that to be happening. You use poplar and they just smolder and they don’t flame up either. Just enough to make smudge.
R: Wow. And when you make your bannock how do you like your bannock fried or baked?
A: Well both ways.
R: Yeah.
A: Well, that time you have to be careful what you use. You can’t use too much lard because you’re out on the land. You run out of lard you have no lard to make bannock with. Just use enough lard to mix bannock and sometimes you fry meat with your lard but you don’t want use too much. Once you start cooking you add a little bit of water just, you always try to save. But when you’re out in my culture camp there like that we use a lot of fried bannock. You have a good run to town, in town we can get lard or order a grease or whatever we need so, not bad. But if you hafta get out of land someplace out in the way to get in you take you two or three days strongly before you get to town with dogs so then you have to save whatever you could. And make sure you have matches and a dry spot that’s the main thing.
Look after your axe. Your axe is the main tool when you’re out there. You break a axe handle and you have no way of chopping there until you start to make an axe handle and it’ll take a little while. But now when I travel I carry a extra axe all the time. Sometimes I take somebody with me and if they aren’t a little careful they come back with a broken axe handle. So you gotta watch all that. Be careful how you swing that axe. Sometimes you hit your frozen log and comes down it’ll get your foot. Foot get in the way and you damage your feet you won’t be able to do much. You gotta be careful with all that you do. When you do carry a gun you don’t carry a loaded one not even in a magazine er, not one in the chamber. I used to put em in the magazine then when I come to a camp I take my rifle out I check see if there’s no shell in the barrel then you’d put it on the side. Well that’s what you gotta be careful on rifle or gun, any kind of gun. You never point to anybody, never point your gun to a dog or anything. Yes, make sure. You point your gun away from people and if you want to check your gun you point it up in the air and check. Sometimes you have a lever, some bolt action, some have pump but you gotta be careful. Like a shotgun 12 gauge shotgun before you fire a shot you make sure you put a stick or something a rod if you have. I used to use a willow put it in the barrel. One time one guy didn’t do that there was a dead mouse in there in the barrel and just about shot himself so that’s why I’m always careful with firearms. And you don’t start shooting targets for nothing and you make sure every shot counts. At one time I used to be a good shot but now there’s lots of vibration I can’t shoot very straight. Sometimes it takes me what two or three shots before I get what I want but before every shot used to count.
K: So what’s the biggest lesson that you think younger people need to learn that you feel you have to share? Or what piece of information do you have that you think is the most valuable for people to hear?
A: Well to get out on the land you gotta know what you need. You gotta have a good sleeping bag, good footwear and good axe, knife, knives, guns … then you gotta go for, you gotta tell someone where you’re going, where you wanna go. Which direction you’re going, how long you’re gunna be, are you going by yourself or two people? But they have skidoos nowadays so most of the time they go with the machine. Some people they break down on the land and you have to walk back. In certain times when it was time for you, time you were supposed to be home you’re not there so somebody will go looking for you. If you don’t tell no one where you’re going nobody knows where you are then they don’t know when you’ll be back. So that’s what you should learn first to tell your friend or family what direction you’re going, how long you’re going to be and certain day you’re coming back. If they’re not back on certain day somebody go check them out.
K: When you went with your dogsled team that was uh, you used to go for months at a time.
A: Well yeah with dogs you … well dogs they don’t get lost not like ski doo. Ski doos don’t swim either but dogs does. So if you go through ice, long as your lead dog, lead dog and second and third they’re on the ice they pull the rest of the team out till they pull you out as well. So that’s they only thing that they know. When you’re getting on that lake they know when there’s not much ice on the lake. The dogs will hesitate to go even though they’re taking your orders. You’d call them one way they don’t wanna go that means there’s something not right so they just go where the dog will go and then you check your ice and then most of the time there’s hardly any ice. That’s where the dogs are coming in good. But ski doo you don’t see the ice looks like it’s solid you go in there all of a sudden you’re in the drink there. Before in the early fall like that people would get out their ski doo  some people they “oh it’s good the ice it froze early.” They go out there and just … *whomp. Before they get out on the ice they should go out there to check how much ice there is first before they get onto the ice. And the axe which you use you hit the ice with one swing and if the axe go through the ice there that means it’s still not safe for you to go on and if you give it a good whack and the axe don’t go through the ice then it’s okay with about two inches of ice. With ice you gotta be careful. When you go on the lake, the narrows there, a dangerous spot little current there always weak ice or around the point where you always gotta be careful, worst place to go. Go down later on in wintertime that’s when the ice buildup is okay but always be careful in the narrows. Might be good one day you go, next time you come back might be wide open again. So that’s where people might be mistaken. When you’re chasing caribous, caribous only go in on maybe an inch of ice, they won’t fall through I don’t know why. This one time my brother in law and I, by our main camp, there were a bunch of caribou on the lake there, we shot a couple there. We went all there and we start to see uh water was coming over the ice we drug that caribou back we check the ice, only a little bit of ice on the lake there.
K: The whole herd of caribou?
A: Yeah a few caribou running around we caught a couple out of it. Then when we got there the ice was cracking a little bit so we got one caribou and we drug it, then the caribou go through the ice at least caribou was floating like our life jacket that’s what I figured so we managed to make it to the shore then we went back out to see how much ice. There was only a little bit of ice where the caribous were, they didn’t go through or nothing they just running around there like solid ice. Gotta be very careful when you’re hunting caribou. People think ‘oh caribou gone over there there’ll be a lot of ice’ that’s not the point. Caribou’s I dunno, I don’t know why they don’t go through ice not very often anyway.
R: Maybe just the way their hooves are.
A: Probably or just separate, maybe they spread out. Maybe I dunno how they, hard to say.
R: Wow, well I was wondering if I could take your picture? Is that okay?
A: I guess it’ll be alright 
R: Yeah? I’m wondering really quickly if I could take your picture outside because I have a really nice camera but it only works when there’s a light behind somebody and I’ll be really quick.
A: Mmhmm yeah?
R: Yeah … does that sound okay? I’d really love to take your picture today.
A: Yeah.
R: So do you think your wife is gunna win money today?
A: I don’t, well it’s hard to say.
R: Mmmhmm were her palms burning? Were her palms itching? You heard about that eh? When somebody’s palms are really itchy it means they’re gunna win money.



The late Ib Kristensen


Ib Kristensen: an interview and visit with Carla Ulrich, Kyle Napier and Richard Van Camp in January of 2015 in Ib's home.

R: Okay, Ib. Welcome, welcome, welcome! So, Ib, when were you born?
I: When?
R: Yes!
I: Oh, in 1934 just as the second war started. Yeah well, started in ’32 but, yeah, in June of 1934.

R: And where were you born?
I: In Copenhagen Denmark.
R: Oh …
I: Yeah, and uh … grew up there. My mother was a single parent and uh, it wasn’t easy times during the war of course. Although indirectly we weren’t affected but generally everything was rushing (?) you had poor living conditions and it wasn’t easy for a woman to bring up a child alone in those days and uh, yeah even my schooling was interrupted by the Germans in that towards the end of the war all the refugees from Germany that was bombed out by the allies they were sent to Denmark to recuperate from all the … they didn’t have any place to live. So they occupied the schools around Copenhagen and we were just, we didn’t have schooling for three years yeah. The schooling I went to was in a salvation army meeting room. (laughter) No books, no nothing no … so I’m surprised I can still read, yeah.
R: Yes! How did you end up in Fort Smith?
I: Oh there’s a good question I uh, let me go back and say my wife and I came to Canada in ’57. Immigrated to Canada and ended up in Vancouver worked there for some 8 years I think and then got hired by McGill University to come to Montreal to start up a pending facility for them which I enjoyed very, very much it was real fantastic yup. Spent about six years and we decided uh Montreal was not the place for us and the kids specifically uh we needed some more free environment then the big cities. So we uh, we had bought a farm in Ontario and had that one for a few years but decided that wasn’t what we wanted neither. So uh, we decided to uh, come to the Northwest Territories having no idea what we were getting into knowing that we were northern stock in the first place, we should be able to survive up here. And uh, in 1971 we arrived … April the first, 1971 we arrived with the kids and skies … (laughing) the rest of it is history!
R: Yes, yes! Did you fall in love with Fort Smith right away?
I: Absolutely yeah.
R: What was it about Fort Smith that you loved?
I: Um, just the solitude of not having to, to worry about traffic and people and the institution of McGill University where more people than lived in Fort Smith at that time as a workplace. Uh just the nature and we were very involved in skiing from the day one and together with Jean (?)(inaudible sounds like he’s mentioning someone’s name) of whom you mentioned earlier when you came uh we started up the ski club in Fort Smith and that’s going strong even today yeah. So that was uh, just the freedom, just to be able to move without rubbing shoulders with masses of people.
R: During your time in Fort Smith, how did you … what did you feel about Fort Smith. How did you change for the better? Cause you were a businessman you are a father …
I: Well, I never was in the business before uh … they uh, how we got into that was the fact that my wife as you know was a weaver of renown, even in Ontario and Quebec where we lived not even as … but she started her weaving as soon as we got here. The first thing we set up was a loom and I still have that upstairs. So and she just never stopped weaving and uh, in ’75 where we lived on King Street, as you remember …
R: Yup
I: That house burned down that’s where Field’s store is right now on that piece of property and uh, we lost just everything and uh, including a place to live the government was kind enough to help us to finding a place to live and oh a couple of years or so Lillian continued her weaving and did quite well but there was nothing for me much to do so I took a carpentry course at a war college now, at that time it was a vocational training centre. Adult vocational training and uh, they had a course of pre-employment carpentry was the name of it and uh, I graduated from there after a season, as a first immersion student that the first vocational training centre ever had. (laughter) It was very new at that time as you remember it was just in the process of being developed into what it is today. So that was uh … and then I did photography for the college after that I did the first calendar. Designed and did posters for the college promoting it and so on and so forth and it was just time to get into doing things myself. I couldn’t find a place, I didn’t want to be a carpenter and I didn’t know much about anything else so I decided that we should maybe find a place to start a business. And we weren’t allowed to uh, at that time, to work out of our home and be selling things. You had to have a business licence. And you couldn’t have a business licence unless you had a place of business. So anyways, long story short uh the buildings that the old medical clinic is where Raven business or whatever it’s called gift store is where we had our bookstore? It was up for sale that piece of property and uh we bid on the uh on the property. It was kind of a funny, it was a federal property the federal government didn’t want to have it. Uh, and they gave it to the town, no they gave it to the government, NWT, which wasn’t quite there yet but they didn’t want it so they gave that to the town and the town decided that they didn’t want to have it but they could put it up for sale so we bid on it and we won. We won, the bid so we had a place where we could start a business but nothing to put in it to sell. We didn’t have any money to buy anything so uh, at that time things were a little bit easier to get around with the government and so on and all the crafts and so on that the government they were willing to let us sell it on commission. And so we started selling crafts in that store and lived next door, we swear by the way (?) the old, the first library in town. Uh, the librarian at that time was Mary Darts. You remember the Darts family?
R: A little bit.
I: Yeah, okay. And uh, we set up our living quarters in that place and had the shop and worked it into a bookstore: “The biggest little bookstore in the north.”
R: Yes. It was a great bookstore.
K: So, Richard had asked you earlier how many different languages you have with the books here. You said maybe a few. I’m wondering what languages you speak?
I: Well, Danish, French and as well as English, of course. There are some books in… there are some Cree books. I have a collection of some educational material in Chipewyan and that I just treasure because it’s just beautifully done. Things like that. But nothing very, well what would I say, unusual? (laughter)
K: I mean to ask, in the forty five years you’ve spent in the South Slave and really embracing this community….I wondering… what you’ve learned about the languages here or how people interact with the sense of community that you get in Smith that maybe you don’t get anywhere else?
I: Well that’s an interesting question. Of course you realize that coming to Canada in 1957as we did, we didn’t speak a word of English (laughter). I was busy for all these years trying to learn to speak English and I’m still learning and never mind other languages. That’s true: I speak Norwegian and I speak as well some Swedish, of course, and a little German. German was compulsory in school because of the war and you just hang onto one; you know, you just never forget it entirely. But, again, just being able to communicate in the language in the place where I live has been a challenge so all these years …
K: So I’m wondering: you must have gone, on all these years, real adventures and the time that you’ve spent here. I’m wondering if you have any stories of any trips that you’ve been on whether it was hunting or fishing.
I: Well, yeah, that’s another interesting question… in March coming up it is…1975 there was a big to-do in town to create a road to Fort McMurray. A winter road as a start at least. There were no roads at that time. So three people: myself, my oldest boy ____ and another person I guess what was his name? We decided to promote that road by skiing cross country from Fort Smith to Fort McMurray, cross country. There was no road, no nothing. It was just bush and the river and we managed to do it and, interestingly enough, the people that were involved outside our own group, at this time are setting up an anniversary for this event, next here in March in Edmonton. Everyone wants to celebrate that road that we did, paved sort to speak. But it was a beautiful trip because. We met a lot of people; we met some of the natives on the way, like the Snowshoe family. Snowbird I mean, family down by the Athabasca River and Leana Horn from the shop. She had a little store down there. And things like that, you know, and slept in cabins that you could find on the way. We had no, well, when we needed a place we could find it. Yeah. Tribals cabins left a little ‘thank you very much note’ and people never had locks on their cabins and you can always just open the door and just use it. You know, that was a way of life. You were asking me a way of life compared to what it is today.
R: Yes.
I: You could do that sort of stuff at that time you could just walk in and say ‘here’.
K: What can you tell us about Snowbird Garden?
I: Really not much; they were well known. They were known to TV.  There was a film company at the time doing a story on the family. We just stayed a night with them and knew them just from information through the media. Nothing else than that. No, they were just kind to us. They gave us food and shelter and send us away the next morning.
K: Beautiful.
I: I don’t know. These things can happen again this day today with the right conditions and so on but maybe not as much in the early days.
K: So you, being as immersed in the community as you have been, you’ve seen it change, of course. You’ve seen all the shifts whether it’s been buildings or the expansion of the town and you were here when Fort Smith was the capital of the Northwest Territories.
I: It was indeed, yeah. (laughing)
R: For how long? How long was it the capital for those people who don’t know?
I: It was an installation centre. It was a capital for Mayor Kaeser at that time. That was his big thing. He wanted to see Fort Smith as a capital and it was the administration centre for the Northwest Territories before Yellowknife already encroached on that part of administration. But things were happening in Yellowknife, of course, even before we came--arrived in the Northwest Territories but more or less the things were done out of Fort Smith at the time. So Fort Smith may have become a capital which were a good thing (laughing) as far as I’m concerned. Fort Smith is still a place to be, I think, a beautiful place.
K: You mentioned earlier that it’s the freedom that it grants you. You walk out and it’s all that fresh air. Just you can walk in any direction.
I: No, it’s that kind of a feeling that you know all the neighbours, everybody. People look after the elders in this community

R: Yes.
I: Well people will come and say, “Well here’s some cookies or here’s some bread. It’s wonderful. It’s like one big family and I love it here. Which you don’t do in the big city you don’t even know your next door neighbour kind of a thing. No I love it. I shall be very sad the day I have to move out of here. I know that day will come, I will assume. It’s just a … a nice feeling. You can trust people. That’s all you need, really. You need the love from other people you can have that kind of a feeling. Love thy neighbour.
R: Yes.
K: And do you think that Fort Smith accepted you readily and willingly and right away? Was it like a warm … 
I: I’ve never had a problem with anybody that I can think of.
C: Did you ever use to go to those dances they had? My granny told me that they used to have dances, I think at the church.
I: Yeah.
C: Did you ever used to go to those?
I: No never. No. It was just a personal… what would I say? Decision that we made we were not prone to … partying was not our thing. That way we may have been anonymous--I don’t know but we knew what was going on, of course, but never partook in that just uh … we never belonged much to any particular church. We did go to different churches and we knew all the ministers and so on like Bishops Piche. He was Bishop when you were just a little (to you Richard) and… and mostly corresponding with Birminghams was where our family from Britain that came and ministered in the Anglican church and left many many years ago and I still get letters from him, from England. Yeah … that’s nice. Yeah it’s family. But we never did really belong to any particular church so…

K: The community has been really warm and welcoming and embrace you.
I: Anytime yeah, yeah.
R: Can you tell us briefly for the people who don’t know. There’s a very important book that’s very near and dear to everybody’s heart in Fort Smith it’s called ‘On The Banks of the Slave.’
I: Yes!
R: Can you just tell us how that book came to be?
I: Yes, I can do that… that happened in 1974. 1974 was the Centennial Year for Fort Smith and the … Centennial, a hundred years. The Hudson’s Bay came here in 1874 and settled here in Fort Smith and hence the capital. Yellowknife didn’t even, well it did exist but (laughing) and anyways during the celebrations people were talking how nice it would be to have a book on celebrating the occasion and at the time I had the bookstore, and I was aware of this eager attempt to do something for the town. The elementary school grade 6 did a project collecting stories and photographs from the collection, from the Brown collection in Edmonton and so on. Boyle institute and so on. They collected photographs of the early days of Fort Smith and stories and the year went by and the next summer, this would be now in 75 now. The teacher that was in charge of this came to my store with a box of papers and photographs and so on, left it on the counter and said, “You do it.” (laughing). Meaning that he was leaving and he wasn’t going to do anything to this. So I took up the challenge and I negotiated a contract with the government to edit and to not as much as editing as designing and do the actual layout of the book and arrange for the printing of the pay stubs and so forth. Which I did and had a great time doing it. Didn’t make any money doing it--very little anyways but the result was the book, yeah. (laughing) It was really neat. Books are…it’s been my life, my trade from the old country I learned. I worked in the publishing company, at the publishing place in Copenhagen. And books were to me, all my life, even as a youngster, I spent all my time in libraries and went to books and read everything I could about the Arctic. You asked me earlier about my interest in the Northwest Territories. Well I knew: I read everything there was to read about the Arctic. There was just for some reason a specialty among and, so, yeah, what is it they say? The rest of it is history? The book was a success and several printings and it’s still a pleasure to own that book if you can find one.
R: Yes, that’s true.
K: So it seems like you have a rich balance with trees like an appreciation not only in how they’ve helped with like publishing books and everything but also how you built your house around you. Like this is wonderful this is beautiful.
I: Well thank you. Well, yeah I … it’s living within nature, with-in nature, yeah. I have it all around me 24/7.
R: Mmhmm yeah.
I: I’ve three acres of land yeah and I just love it.
K: What did you first notice about the culture and identity in Fort Smith and the people who are here and everyone? What’s …
I: Well it wasn’t about anything that I looked for. It was just a happening. It was just there and you absorbed it. My kids live with and play with the native kids. Got beaten up by the natives, and went to school and graduated in the school in the community and did well. I had no big learning forces; it just happened. I could walk into town from King street from where we lived, and I had to walk by Billy Schaefer’s place on the corner where the Christmas tree is now and I would walk by there and go in and say, “Hi, Billy, how are things today?” kind of a thing. He would be sitting outside of his house. I just loved going by there and say, “Hi, how are you doing?” He was sitting. He was sitting on the chair every morning in the summertime, of course, and watching people getting late to work (laughing). He knew all the names he would say, “Oh, he’s late for work now.” (laughing) So you know, little things. Elizabeth, his wife, Elizabeth I treasured as a person, yeah, made an awesome tea, yeah. It just happened. I didn’t look for it particularly. It was just there.
R: What’s it like to watch a town grow up? ‘Cause you’ve seen many generations get older, you know the families …

I: Yeah, it’s a little difficult. I served on the town council for some, a few years, I think, as a town councilor and looked at the town grow from that point of view… it was still, Kaeser was still mayor. The council met in the fire hall that we have now in the basement there. Later on…we met in the library basement and now, of course, we have a Town Hall kind of a thing. It’s development. Little by little, things have changed, of course, and you absorb that and you don’t really think of it but it much, and it shows. It’ll show you in the years you grew up. And I don’t, I don’t think there’s no miracle in it. It’s just a happening. I suppose to some people it could … it could be a miracle. As you know. Well, is it you have yourself a miracle in your own life in having experienced that from Fort Smith from a different point of view and here you are. A renowned author  … so (laughing). I don’t have much else to come up with. I have travelled a lot in my life, experienced other places in the world. For some years I worked with a mission out of Toronto; it was a Pentecostal mission and Tribal trips in the summertime and building schools in different countries. Like I went to Indonesia Youngia twice and Guatemala--I’ve been there a couple times and three times! And I told my wife to come along one year just to help people outside our own country. Went on seven missions or so, different countries. Very satisfactory to go and help somebody. I’ve received, Eve’s received, my wife and I have received so much help and we’re just giving back what we could to help other people.
K: And that’s what we’ve been noticing a lot in our conversations, what it is to share and to make sure that those around you are taken care of too.
I: Yeah, sharing is a good word. Yeah, that’s what we need to do, to share our blessings. That’s what, that’s what it is
R: Mahsi! Yes! Ib, thank you!
E: Oh thank you.
R: What a pleasure eh?
I: If there’s a little I could help you with.
R: Yes well your words are wise, yeah.
I: (laughing) But I wish you all a very successful challenge.
K: Thank you so much! You given me … oh the stories that we’re working on to help share. All the different ways we’re on thank you so much for …
I: You’re still very much in communication with Liam Peterson? Our president for the seniors?
K: Yeah occasionally.  Well, Richard and I have been invited to drop by for the Senior’s Dinner on Friday but I’m not sure if we’ll be able to make it. It’ll all depend on how that day goes.
I: No, no you’re busy, you have a schedule (laughing).
R: Yeah sometimes you think a storyteller is about ready to finish, they remember and they keep going yeah.
I: Yeah that’s true.
R: We’ve had to be very flexible and …
I: Yeah, I commented when you were meeting with us, that everybody has a story…