Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Saturday June 27, 1998 - Inuvik

Hanging out at Liz and Clem's campsite
Chuk Camp - cloudy, cool and windy

The people from Vancouver Island decided to try their luck and leave for the Dempster. Clem and Liz told me about their trip to Tuk and fed me a big breakfast of eggs, pancakes and coffee.

They said that Tuktoyaktuk consisted of a bunch of shacks, an expensive craft shop, a few government offices, and a caribou soup meal. As the trucker at the Peel River ferry said, "I'd as soon cook my runners as eat caribou soup". What the locals there have to say about native life is nothing more than I know already. Do I sound cynical? Life in most northern towns is pretty much reduced to tourism when the primary resource industries are gone. It used to be oil and gas exploration here and mining in the Yukon, but that's pretty much gone now. The Indians and Eskimo (so far all the native people I've talked to refer to themselves as "Indian" or "Eskimo") hunt, fish and trap and whatever else comes their way. Liz said she was shocked by how bad the kids' teeth were there. A lot of pop and chips; as the trucker at the Peel River ferry said, it's an essential service there.

I told Liz and Clem I'd share whatever fish I caught on my big fishing trip and left to meet my guide Alvin.

Alvin is a 39 year old Inuvialuit man who sets a net on Airport Lake for white fish, but as it turns out knows nothing at all about rod fishing for trout or pike. He put snare wire on my fishing line as a leader in case I caught a pike. We tried several places: in a creek, at a creek mouth, on the lake. I tangled my line several times but gradually got the hang of casting, which after three hours you'd think so. Alvin showed me an eagle's nest on a cliff and told me about the eagle chick in it. He walks along the top of the cliff and climbs down to the nesst to see the chick every day. He leaves fish for it. While I was casting, he was cleaning the white fish he took from his net that morning. He said if I didn't catch anything he'd give me some.

While we were out in the lake floating around in his boat, we chatted. Alvin asked me questions about my travels and told me he once lived in Hay River. I asked him what he was doing there. Long pause, then he said, "I was a bad boy." Later he said they fished and hunted and had satellite TV, "it hardly seemed like jail at all." He liked Hay River. I was there once and hated it; I guess I should have known that the Hay River jail was the place to be. Didn't ask what he did to go to jail, alone in a boat with him I didn't really want to know.

Alvin spent a lot of time untangling my fishing line; he said he would like to just cut off the tangles and keep them as souvenirs of me.

We went to Moe's cabin for a lunch of instant rice, smoked white fish, bannock and tea. Alvin lives in Moe's cabin. He's actually not allowed to be here, this is Gwichin territory and he is Inuvialuit. He should be fishing further north but he says it's too far to go so Moe lets him stay here and turns a blind eye. The sun was up and it was getting pretty hot, I was worried about Yohan shut up in the truck so I wanted to go back. Alvin gave me some bannock and white fish fillets, and smoked white fish for Yohan. I didn't much like the smoked white fish so I was going to give it to the dog, but it turned out Yohan didn't like it either. Alvin smoked it himself so I didn't tell him I didn't like it and was planning to give it to Yohan.

Liz cooked the white fish for me, we had white fish, rice, cabbage and custard for supper. There was lots of fish left over but we ate all of the bannock. We stayed up well past midnight talking. I love there camping van, if I ever bought an RV or camping van I'd like to get one like theirs. They have hookups so they can cook inside or outside under an awning, so cooking smelly fish doesn't stink up the inside sleeping area. The van is wide enough for their bed to be crosswise instead of lengthwise and there is a raised roof for headroom. They also have a vertical windbreak that attaches to the awning making a second wall.

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