Adventures of the Gillam Cohort – They’re Back!
March 17, 2013
The Northern Practicum Cohort has gone back to Gillam for their final placement. Stay tuned to see what adventures they have this time!
It is hard to believe that we have completed our last university courses and are about to begin our final practicum before graduating. Dave picked me up Saturday morning at 6:00 am and we were off again to the great white north. Unlike the last trip the weather seemed quite calm when we hit highway 6 to start our long drive up. We took a detour and went to Dauphin on the way and had a wonderful visit with Dave’s parents. What wonderful people they are, they made me feel so welcome, like I knew them forever. Almost as soon as we walked in the door, his dad took me to the kitchen and told me to look out the window. I could not believe my eyes! There was a huge hole in the neighbours tree with a bright red head sticking out of it. When he came out of the hole I was taken back by the size of the woodpecker that has been returning to this tree for a couple of years! Magical.
After a nice visit we were off again and on our way to Gillam. Thanks to our detour and change of paths, I was surprised by a buffalo crossing sign! I have to say it was the first time I have ever seen one! So of course we stopped to take a picture. If that wasn’t interesting enough, we later saw 3 wolves right beside the highway. Unfortunately, it took too long for my camer to take the photo and I missed the shot! Too bad, it was a fascinating thing to see.
Once again, Dave drove the entire way and we arrived in Gillam about 9:45 saturday night.
What is great this time out is that we got here just in time for the start of Gillam Winter Carnival! The week starts off with a cake decorating contest, ice worm making and an ice worm scavenger hunt. Throughout the week are other fun activities such as loonie swim, loonie bowling, fiddling and jigging contests, trapper games, poster contests, playdough sculpture contests, pancake breakfast , a performance by Asham Stompers and more. One of the biggest highlights is a dog sled race that starts here Friday afternoon and ends in Churchill. I am looking forward to seeing that! This is going to feel like a real northern experience, between seeing the small wolf pack yesterday and the dog sled races on Friday!
I am looking forward to the next 7 weeks!
Well, here I am back in Gillam, and what a week to return, as it was the annual Winter Carnival! Every day had a variety of activities for residents to participate and attend. In my opinion, the highlights of the week were the Quest for Hudson Bay dog sled race, and the Trapper Events competition.
The Quest for Hudson Bay dog sled race is a 354 km race from Gillam to Churchill. The race attracts mushers from across North America because of the $25,000 purse and it is a qualifying race for the Yukon Quest dog sled race and the famous Iditarod great sled race. This year there were 15 mushers from Washington, Minnesota, Michigan, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, and a couple of locals from Churchill. As the mushers arrived in Gillam, they kept their dog teams at the beach. One evening, I walked down to the beach to meet the mushers. One particularly outgoing fellow I met was Ed “The Sled” Obrecht from Otter Lake, Quebec. He has been sledding for 8 years. He was very eager to share stories and very engaging. He also gave me some raw Arctic char, which is an acquired taste I picked up living in Nunavut. He used it to feed his dogs on the trail.
The mushers were welcomed into the school and community. The mushers were presented to the school during an assembly, and each grade adopted a musher. Further, there was a meet and greet session at the recreation centre, where residents could meet the mushers and share stories, coffee and snacks.
On race day, the school left for an early lunch and people could take the bus down to the start line. It was a clear, cold day, with a biting wind. A windchill warning was issued that day for Gillam. Unlike the sled dogs I saw in Nunavut that were large and furry, the mushers for this race used smaller, skinny sled dogs built for speed – but not necessarily for the cold. Many of the dogs were wearing jackets. The race was a testament to desire, as the mushers experienced windchills of up to -48 C along the way.
The cold weather also affected the Trapper events competition. These events test the skills needed for a traditional style of living. Youth and adult residents competed in sled pulls, wood cutting, trap setting, water boiling and tea making, moose calling, and goose calling. A windchill in the mid -30s C made some of the outdoor events challenging, with movement of participants and observers from outside to warm up inside them back outside.
Now, we have a week of school ahead that includes midterm exams before a much anticipated spring break. I’ll be spending it exploring the area by snowshoe, so stay tuned for further updates and pictures.
~ Dave Overgaard
The first week back in Gillam has been great! I am now teaching in a 5/6-split classroom, teaching everything. It is a very rewarding experience so far. The school was so welcoming on our first day back, last Monday, March 11th. I was greeted to a chorus of “HI MISS STEEDSMAN!!!” on the playground during recess. It was great!
This past week was Winter Carnival in Gillam. There were activities in the school, such as a poster contest, an afternoon of activities outside and an assembly on Thursday. In the community, there were activities in the rec centre every night. These included a cake decorating contest and a lego building contest. It was fun for the whole community.
On Friday I got to experience my first dog sled competition. It was the beginning of the Hudson Bay Classic, a two-day race from Gillam to Churchill. The race started at noon at the beach. I don’t think I have ever been that cold before. It was on a day that had a -40 wind-chill, but it felt like -70. I only lasted 10 minutes in the cold but it was enough to get a few pictures and a video. It was a neat experience that I am very glad I got to take part in.
That night Sarah and I ventured to the rec center to watch a jigging group. This group travels all around Canada sharing their talent of jigging. We had the opportunity to see Saagine’s (Spelling might be wrong) Finest in the performance as well. This group of three boys was the winners of Canada’s Got Talent back in 2012. They were phenomenal! They combined traditional jigging with modern music, which was quite the show.
This past week I really got to experience how Gillam comes together as a community. All the staff at the school made sure that we knew what was going on during Winter Carnival. It was wonderful to feel welcomed and greeted with smiling faces.
~ Allison Steedsman