Where the North? continued

So to continue the question Where the North? Karen and I have been asking people as we travel the country if they consider “this” North. Here are a few pics with the accompanying stories and their insights about the North. While we are canoe tripping, I have scheduled these to come out to you. We had a great time in Whitehorse. We camped next to a couple from NYC who were travelling up to Alaska to give their dog good memories since he lives in an apartment. When Karen tried to say hi to the dog, the parents backed her off quickly explaining that the dog is very protective. Plus—he was having his dinner in a bowl on top of the picnic table….They were sleeping in their Mercedes SUV. Funny, we’ve met people whose stories seem so bizarre I think they really must be on the lam.

We took river training today with Up North Adventures while watching bald eagles soar, then broke camp. We loaded the canoe onto the car as a pet pig named Ernest strolled along the sidewalk. Whitehorse is great!


At Turtle Lodge, I asked a few youth Where is North and they all pointed in the same direction. Then I talked to Sage (Raptors fan with the Bulls hat) and Austin drummers and singers from the Sagkeeng First Nation who said proudly that Yes, this is North.

Sage and Austin Turtle Lodge
Sage and Austin Turtle Lodge “This is North”

More on Turtle Lodge and Healing

Karen and I stayed until noon the next day at Turtle Lodge and were honoured to witness the morning part of the ceremony of leadership and water. Elder Dave Courchene talked about the responsibilities of the original people, their survival, the importance for them to take their place as leaders to the world for us all to live in harmony with Mother Earth. He spoke: “We reject assimilation. We are a beautiful people… And we have the responsibility to heal ourselves with the unconditional love of Mother Earth.” Dave Courchene also said: “Water is a primary concern and carries in its spirit the memory of creation.”

Fred Kelly spoke about all the waters being connected and told the creation story of the different waters coming from the sky to join the grandfather stones. Grandmother Katherine Whitecloud: Speak with the spirit to make our families and our nation whole again. And then we heard from the Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde who spoke of his experience in Alert Bay some months ago where the community demolished the residential school then celebrated with dancing and singing and he heard a ten year old girl speak and shout with celebratory defiance “They didn’t win!”

AFN Grand Chief
AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde

We needed to rejoin our journey and left with gratitude to the Turtle Lodge knowing we are part of the “2-legged tribe” responsible for reconciliation and environmental healing. As we drove into Alberta, we listened on CBC Alberta Today to author and Idle No More founder Sylvia McAdam talking about righting treaty violations and sharing knowledge with the world to arrest environmental decimation. Her book is titled Nation Interrupted.

I carry the deep feeling that all who share this land can come together to heal. A great voice is growing. Let’s all hear it now.

Whitehorse and coming Posts

Time is amazing. We’ve gained hours as we cross the country and now we can set up camp well past midnight in the light of day. One of our goals is to slow the time, become outside it, let it be a different mark of days for us on our leave. Went to sleep well after 1AM last night and used our eye masks to create darkness.

We’ve not had data service for a few days so I am trying to catch up–there is soooo much to write about! I am preparing advance posts to be published every other day while we are canoeing, so as to not innundate y’all. So here I am on wifi in the Robert Service campground while Karen prepares our canoe trip gear and studies the river map. We’ll be canoeing with the Yukon River about 350km to Dawson. True Klondykes!

Robert Service Campground livingroom, Whitehorse
Robert Service Campground livingroom, Whitehorse

Meanwhile this crew is our for night fishing for arctic grayling.20150609_183536

Day 3: Turtle Lodge

We arrived at Turtle Lodge around 3pm and heard drumming and singing inside the beautiful wooden building. We were asked to wear skirts so we used our colourful sarongs and entered into community to hear elders and knowledge keepers speak about healing from the scars of Canada’s residential school system and colonialism.

There was a focus on the wisdom of women and how grandmother leadership will help to bring healing and strength. Playwright and professor Maria Campbell spoke of not seeing her siblings or parents for 12 years when she was sent to residential school. Then, she talked about porridge. How simple it is to provide warm porridge for your children. The gift of a warm breakfast smell as they wake, to give them your time and attention through the morning meal. She described herself (I’m paraphrasing) as a “good mother, wonderful grandmother and now an incredible great-grandmother!”

The teachings, leadership and water ceremonies were timed with a ceremony to acknowledge Youth completing their Makoose Ka Win and Vision Quest rites of passage to Adulthood. Karen and I drove into town to buy pizza to bring to the community feast then set camp on this sacred land and fell asleep to drumming.

Tipis where youth fasted.
Tipis where youth fasted.
Maria and Talia at Turtle Lodge
Maria and Talia at Turtle Lodge

I’ll post more about our time at the Turtle Lodge in another segment.

Day 3 Manitoba

We broke camp early driving along a misty Hwy 11 in and out of rain. We expect to find coffee just outside the park but the north stretches long between towns. Stopped 150 km later at a busy gas bar/restaurant in Nigigoonsiminikaaning First Nation and bought breakfast sandwich made with bannock. We have breakfast and coffee to make in our car-kitchen, with us but we are finding the need to get on the road efficiently to make our timing marks.

Lake of the Woods is gorgeous and we saw a large doe meander near the A&W in Kenora. On CBC, we’d heard all about resident’s love/hate relationship with the new traffic roundabout in Kenora. Strange familiarity made us laugh as Karen took us around it twice. In Manitoba, cool rain was traded for warm open fields. We left stern northern Ontario — with its jagged rock, hulking army of pine, and giant lake — for Manitoba, scruffy and open, like a laid back cousin’s living room where inviting comfort and quiet discovery reside.

Old tractor travels the Prairies
Old tractor travels the Prairies

About the Bear

We wanted to talk to a ranger before sharing more about our encounter with the Bear. Karen was driving. A large male on his hind legs was sniffing the air and waited for an eastbound car to pass. Then got on all fours and ran at us. It hit the back driver’s side bumper. We heard the thud. All in 10 seconds from when we first saw it to when we collided. We held our breath. He somersaulted behind us then rose quickly and ran into the bush.
We were both upset wondering what we could have done differently. We said a prayer, sent spirit healing for the Bear.
The ranger we contacted explained that the Bear probably misjudged timing and thought it could get in front of us. He’ll report it to Bear Wise.
We have claw marks on the bumper, fresh raised paint but no blood or fur.

Today we are traveling to Turtle Lodge on Sagkeeng FN to attend the Nibi Water Ceremony. Just crossed into Manitoba. We have been listening to reports on the Truth and Reconciliation commission. As Canadians, we have much to reconcile.

Drum in the Turtle Lodge Circle.
Drum in the Turtle Lodge circle.

Sleeping Giant and a Bear

Hey! Karen and I are greatly enjoying your comments.  Thanks!  Word Press has an approval system before they go public so their visibility depends upon my being online and able to approve so there may be a delay.
We had limited data today all along Lake Superior. Tonight’s and yesterday’s posts have been accomplished through my phone.  And I can’t seem to upload the photos via mobile so I hope to find wifi soon to connect on laptop.
We are in Quetico PP tonight. Braved a swim. Today’s adventures took us all along Superior. All morning we had the Sleeping Giant in our sights as we rose and dipped like crows through these mountains. The spring-lime poplar leaves glitter against the deep green pines of the canyons and we marvel at the red rock face cut to the highway.
Our timing is a little off due to bridge repairs and a slow down for the Toronto panam torch relay. We also forgot to allow time for all the enormous Quebec Winnibegos.

I work at 1 Yonge st and at the foot of Lake Ontario are names of towns along Yong St/ hwy 11 all the way to Rainy River. Picking up 11 after Thunder Bay,  we noticed the mile markers and turned into the campground at 1600km. That’s how far we already are from home, from work, and yet these towns and mileposts are links. Especially for me– seeing signs and  places I’ve had virtual connection to through work at OCWA. Karen has been reminicing on her youth summer job outside TBay. It will be a different world when we get into Manitoba tomorrow. A very long drive to leave the familiarity of our beloved Ontario.
Saw moose, turtles, lots of wildlife and a bear that stood as tall as a sign post before running across the highway.

On the road with Lake Superior
On the road with Lake Superior
poplars, pines and red rock
poplars, pines and red rock

Where the North?

Made Killarney by midday.  Passing familiar signs and rivers. When does north become North? When you see the blue heron overhead,  legs arrowed in flight? Or when you pass a scarred section of Canadian shield with its gravel eddys. Or when you count four beaver huts villaging the roadside marsh.

It takes a long time to leave the house and then the city stretches and stretches to hold you in situ even father every time you venture out. Such a long untethering. Will we fray or bind together?

Posting in Blind River. Aiming for Lake Superior Provincial Park tonight. Thinking of Nigel. Just last night we were celebrating his 19th in the CN tower.

Day 1 Packed up and ready to find out Where is North?
Day 1 Packed up and ready to find out Where is North?