Tuesday, September 17, 2013

On the Shores of the Great Slave Lake

Last week I didn’t post anything for Worth Reading. Part of the explanation for that was because until very recently I did not have home internet. That has, thankfully, changed. The other reason I did not post anything was because I was out of town. On Thursday morning I boarded a small Cessna four-seater prop plane and flew with one of my bosses and a guest speaker to the community of Lutsel K’e.

Myself, standing beside our plane. 

The school board hired a guest speaker, Terry Small, to speak in all of the communities in the region. Small’s talks mostly focus on the human brain, how it works and how we can use how it works to better our learning and understanding. It sounds remarkably straightforward, but most of us don’t really think about it and how locked in many of us are to a certain way of thinking.
The Slave River flying out of Fort Smith.

Back to the trip. Lutsel K’e is the smallest community within the region and also the most difficult to get to. Unlike all the other centres and schools it is inaccessible by car. You can only get to the community by boat or by plane. I imagine it would take an awfully long time by boat/barge so plane is the only real option. The plane was tiny, definitely the smallest one I have ever seen in person. I am not normally a nervous flyer, and the flight was remarkably smooth. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day, so I’m sure that helped.

Lutsel K'e appears on a peninsula from the aircraft. 
Lutsel K’e, sitting on the shores of the Great Slave Lake, reminded me a great deal of smaller communities in Newfoundland. The architecture, the way of life is not entirely dissimilar to the ones I saw a few weeks ago on vacation. Perhaps Labrador is a better parallel, but I have never been there. The smell was wrong though. Lakes do not offer the same rich smells of the ocean.

Lutsel K'e.

Lutsel K’e Dene School was very different from the schools I was taught in, and where I taught. The school only has a few dozen students. All the classes, as near as I can tell, are multi-year classes. The school is a critical part of community life. At the end of the day parents and family members zoomed to the school in ATVs and picked up their little ones.

Growing up in a city with a half a million people makes these experiences somewhat of a shock. Given that my family comes from Newfoundland I have a certain inoculation to these experiences and some familiarity and fondness for an otherwise alien way of life. There is something amazing about living on the shores of one of the largest fresh bodies of water in the world, surrounded by a vast, untamed wilderness. My brief visit to Lutsel K’e did not offer me any particular insights into what it is like to live there, but I am glad I got the chance to visit.
The vast Northwest Territories, filled with lakes, rivers and forests.

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