Sunday, May 27, 2007
Up the Delta
This past week I had the opportunity to visit one of the smaller communities in the MacKenzie Delta called Aklavik. Aklavik is a small hamlet of about 630 people, with a very interesting history. It's location in the delta historically made it a natural spot for trading and commerce. In 1959 the government determined that a new centre for commerce in the Western Arctic was required, as Aklavik was prone to frequent spring floods, and had little room for expansion. The result was the the building of Inuvik.
At one point Aklavik had it's own hospital and a large Anglican Cathedral called All Saints, both pictured above. This Cathedral burned down in the early 1970's and was replaced with a much smaller structure, as by that point the community was no longer a major centre. The hospital has long been replaced by a nursing station.
Aklavik is also home to part of the legend of the Mad Trapper of Rat River (also known as Albert Johnson. The story is interesting and worth reading. Basically the Mad Trapper was the subject of an extensive manhunt, lead by the RCMP in the early 1930's. The search roamed over large portions of the western arctic and ended with a gunfight in which The Trapper was killed, and he was buried in an unmarked grave in Aklavik.
My visit to Aklavik was far less exciting, but still very enjoyable. I got to meet a number of elders and learn about there experiences groing up on the land, and the fascinating transition they have made to their current lifestyle. Oh, and I managed to do a bit of medicine while I was there too. Community visits are always enjoyable, and I always manage to learn something new. Below are a few pictures from the trip.
Small planes are still the backbone of northern travel.
Aklavik from the air.
A street in Aklavik.
The melting river, with the Richardson Mountains in the background.
A now abandoned church.
An eagle on the ice (I'm more sure on this bird ID, but correct me if I'm wrong).
The Aklavik nursing station.
The Aklavik airport (now departing from gate 57, terminal 3....).
The MacKenzie Delta from the air. It's amazing that anyone can find their way among the tristing streams and lakes.