Posted by: M.J. Bolstad | June 6, 2012

Treaty Partying It Up in the Sahtu: Day #1

Overlooking Colville Lake

Well, it hasn’t been that long since my last travel adventures, and already I’m on the road again – or at least I will have been when I get around to posting this. I’m traveling North this time, in the Sahtu Region of the Northwest Territories, and between potentially long hours at work and painfully slow internet connections (or at least painful compared to home), I thought it would be best to keep my journal “offline” for the moment.

As you can probably tell if you’ve stumbled onto this blog, I enjoy traveling. So when the opportunity to take part in a Treaty Party trip with work came up, I jumped at the chance.  I picked the Sahtu because I’d never been in any of the communities, and there were enough bodies in the office for my boss to approve.  And what is a Treaty Party, you might ask?  In brief, as part of Treaties signed with First Nations many, many years ago, the Crown promised (among other things) every band member $5.00, every councillor

Can you spot the dog in this picture?

$15.00, and every Chief $25.00.  Though $5.00 may not seem like much some 100 years later, honouring this promise still maintains the weight of tradition.  We are also helping with applications for the new Secure Certificate of Indian Status cards, but that’s less fun to talk about.  In any case, I’ll be in five communities over the next five days, so readers will get a little taste of each.

We started our morning by getting on the charter plane, a Beech 99 that will be taking us between communities over the next couple of days.  It’s not too bad in terms of aircraft size.  Much more legroom than the Piper Navajo, where the seats face each other so you really get to know the stranger across from you (since you are sharing one row’s worth of leg space). It took us roughly 2 hours to fly from Yellowknife to Colville Lake, which is a community of approximately 100 people that lies above the Arctic Circle.

Kids playing in Colville Lake

We were set up in a gymnasium in a shared space with the health centre, which appears to be open only part time.  There’s not much to the community, given its size.  I don’t believe there is a restaurant, though there is a Northern Store so you can pick up snacks.  I believe there is also a lodge, which I assume feeds overnight guests, B&B style.  The gym is next to the band office, which is nice, because the band office not only has some lovely Bern Will Brown artwork on display, it also has a flushing toilet.  The gym has a honey bucket, which wasn’t terrible to use either, though it is essentially like peeing into a garbage can.  It’s a little rustic in

comparison to what I am, but I think a number of people in smaller communities rely on the honey bucket system on a day to day basis.

The community itself is rather lovely, though we were only there a few hours and most of that I was working.  It sits on the river, with little houses set

The river bank is piled with the huge chunks of ice from breakup in Norman Wells.

around a winding dirt road.  Even the runway for the plane was unpaved. This is, in part I think, because it would be difficult to get the equipment up to pave it.  Certainly it would only happen in the winter, when the ice road is in, and then you’d have trucks and whatnot stuck until the snow melted.

After Colville Lake, we flew in to Norman Wells, which is a bigger community.  There are at least 3 hotels that I’ve counted (we’re staying at the largest of them, the Heritage Hotel) and 3 restaurants.  It is also on the Mackenzie River, and sits between two mountain ranges, the Franklin Range, and the Mackenzie Range.  The scenery is quite spectacular.

Sarah holds a shard of ice that has fallen off as rivulets of water ran through the large pieces (candling ice!).

Our Treaty Party had dinner at the Mackenzie Hotel, because they have a lovely Chinese food place.  Everyone in the party had the combination meal,

even though the hot pots sizzling at the table next to us were tempting.  My combo included an egg roll, chicken fried rice, lemon chicken, and chicken vegetables. The ginger beef was tempting as well, but I thought I’d better be good and have something resembling healthy where I could.

After dinner, we came back to the hotel, and one of the other Treaty Party peeps (Sarah) and I walked out to the Mackenzie River (which is right across the street).  The shores are still full of incredible blocks of ice, jammed up.  You can hear the ice candling, which is very neat.  (Sarah explained it to me – the water essentially running through bits of ice makes shards fall off, and it sounds like breaking glass or the tinkling of chandeliers, depending on the amount.  Quite lovely.)

And now I am back at the hotel – which unlike my Vegas hotel does come with coffee, points in its favour – which I feel quite comfortable in.  The room is spacious and clean, and there is a ton of hotel soap for me to take home.  But I’ve had an early day, and have another relatively early one tomorrow, so I’ll sign off for now.  Until tomorrow!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: