Paddlers make their way in canoes along one of the lakes.

This is the life – Community members paddle the Nation Lakes and build memories

“Life-changing experience.”

These are the words brought back by the paddlers of the Nation Lakes chain recently to organizer Renada Wolstrom.

Seven people went on the trip, with one kayak, four canoes, and one motorboat for backup, and they paddled 72 kilometres over five days.

“Life-changing experience.”

These are the words brought back by the paddlers of the Nation Lakes chain recently to organizer Renada Wolstrom.

Seven people went on the trip, with one kayak, four canoes, and one motorboat for backup, and they paddled 72 kilometres over five days.

Wolstrom had come up with the idea for her community to do the canoe trip after speaking to an elder from the north coast about an annual trip his community does each year, with 60-70 people taking part.

“It was just so inspiring,” said Wolstrom.

While she had always heard of people doing the Nation Lakes chain, she had never heard of anyone from her community in Nak’azdli doing it, even though it was something they would have done traditionally.

So she decided she really wanted to see it happen again, and she shared the idea with her community, and it sparked enough interest to get a group together to try it out.

She saw the trip as an “innovative way to get the community working together and working towards something that helps them regain identity and defining self in traditional cultural ways.”

“What we envisioned was travelling the chain and camping and … sharing of stories … and to open it up to a lot of traditional cultural practices,” said Walstrom.

And that is exactly what happened.

When Dennis Cumberland and Terry Houghton spoke about their experiences on the trip, there were tales of drumming and singing going on around the fire on their first night, while Cumberland and other paddlers bathed in warm springs just across the lake.

The sound carried across the water, and created a unique and beautiful evening, one Cumberland captured part of on video.

The stories told by Houghton, of his trapping and wilderness experiences and the history, were also something the paddlers brought back to Wolstrom as making the trip memorable.

There were attempts at fishing, but Houghton said “the fishing was lousy” compared to most of his trips down the chain. He did manage to catch one five-pound char and cooked it over a fire at a lunch stop for the group.

There was also an attempt by the one member of the group to shoot a caribou, but his shot missed the animal, and the caribou made it safely to shore and into the trees, to the pleasure of some of the group.

On the beach one day, Cumberland found part of a stone tool or arrowhead, which he brought back with him and has sent for analysis.

Overall the conditions were excellent, other than the fishing, and the bugs were “negligible,” according to Houghton, who has done the chain 10 to 15 times.

The wind was at their backs for most of the trip, and there wasn’t a lot of it, so except for one day, the lakes were fairly calm and they had only a bit of rain. While the weather changed every two hours, according to the pair, at times the lakes were like glass, and the paddling was easy.

Houghton and Cumberland both philosophized about their experience, appreciating both the experience and the group.

“I consider the Nation Lakes route one of the best kept secrets,” said Houghton.

While Wolstrom wasn’t able to make the trip at the last minute this year, because she had to move that very week, she is hoping to make the trip an annual event and she will be there next year.

While some of the group had expressed doubts to her about their ability to complete the journey, they all managed it and she said this brought the paddlers a lot of pride in their accomplishment.

“It’s just more about bringing the community together to embark on more traditional practices that help bring unity and pride in our traditional lands,” said Wolstrom.

The maiden voyage was a success, with the group making “this is the life” their trip motto and Wolstrom hopes to carry the momentum on.

 

“They brought back the confidence that we need to make it bigger and better next year,” said Wolstrom.

Nation Lakes