Colville Lake, NWT

21 Dec
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Colville Lake, Northwest Territories.

I just returned from a pretty awesome assignment in the tiny hamlet of Colville Lake, NT, just north of the Arctic Circle. I was invited by ENR and the GNWT to document the annual Christmas “fur run” where wildlife officer, Marti Lys and Francois Rossouw, the head of fur marketing for the territorial government, purchase pelts from local trappers. What made this trip really unique was that we snowmobiled from the town of Norman Wells, an 8 hour excursion in bitterly cold temperatures reaching below minus-40.

The trail was pretty rough so it took us close to 12 hours to reach Colville. Along the way, my sled broke down (not my fault!) and the trail was brutally bumpy which slowed us down a fair bit. But we eventually made it. Over the next few days, Marti met with trappers and purchased furs which will make their way to auctions in Seattle and North Bay, Ontario in January. Some might question the ethics of trapping and harvesting fur but I got to learn some of the ins and outs of the industry: not only is it sustainable and manageable, but the economic and traditional boost it gives to the families in this remote community is essential. Simply put, trapping is a way of life here. An important way of life for adults and kids alike.

Here are some photos from the trip. I’ll be pitching this story to a couple of magazines in the new year – Colville Lake is a community you have to visit if you ever get the chance, and the people I met while I was there are some of the most interesting and good-hearted in the North. I hope to make it back some day.

The trip: flight from Yellowknife to Norman Wells, snowmobile to Fort Good Hope then on to Colville Lake.

Flight from Yellowknife to Norman Wells, snowmobile to Fort Good Hope then Colville Lake.

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Marti and Francois.

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Fort Good Hope.

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Modeste, a Colville Lake trapper, scrapes down a wolf hide outside his cabin.

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Inside Modeste’s cabin.

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An elder rides through town.

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Bern Will Brown, founder of Colville Lake. Bern is a former oblate missionary who is a renowned artist, journalist, writer and explorer. He lives with his wife Margaret in the log home he built more than 50 years ago.

Margaret Brown feeding one of her dogs.

Margaret Brown feeding one of her dogs.

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Bern's museum.

Bern’s museum.

Bern's church.

Bern’s church.

Adrian

Adrian

Hockey rink.

Hockey rink.

Dogs wander freely in town.

Dogs wander freely in town.

Marti counting marten.

Marti counting marten.

Robert Kochon with marten, fox and wolverine pelts.

Robert Kochon with marten, fox and wolverine pelts.

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Mark Kochon.

Mark Kochon.

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Robert Kochon with marten and wolverine pelts.

Modeste with his wolf pelts.

Hauling in 8 wolves.

Hauling in 8 wolves.

Inside the cabin.

Inside the cabin.

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Wolf carcasses are sent to ENR for sampling.

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Marie Kochon.

Marie Kochon.

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Sheldon Snow, teacher and head of the Youth Fur Trapping program.

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The local B&B - only $260 a night!

The local B&B – only $260 a night!

Antler tower at the Colville Lake Lodge.

Antler tower at the Colville Lake Lodge.

Marti Lys.

Marti Lys.

Abandoned cabin overlooking lake and mountain.

Abandoned cabin overlooking lake and mountain.

Northern Lights. Proof that I took an aurora photo for once in my life.

Northern Lights. Proof that I took an aurora photo for once in my life.

15 Responses to “Colville Lake, NWT”

  1. Michael Ganley December 21, 2012 at 4:21 pm #

    Great work, Pat. And as ever, your portraiture is a pleasure. Bern Will Brown. Wow.

  2. Rod MacIvor December 21, 2012 at 4:36 pm #

    Awesome photos!!!

  3. Francois December 21, 2012 at 8:40 pm #

    Well done – can still feel the cold. cheers Francois

  4. franhurcombphotography December 22, 2012 at 2:34 am #

    great blog, great photos Pat. Makes me yearn for the bush.

  5. Alana Kronstal December 23, 2012 at 12:21 am #

    Amazing photos and post Pat. Very cool that the GNWT had the insight to hire you for this assignment. I look forward to the magazine article!

  6. Joanne Stassen December 23, 2012 at 6:33 am #

    Gorgeous work Pat!

  7. Joan Barrett December 23, 2012 at 3:15 pm #

    Wow – amazing photos Pat. I am in Yellowknife and just met some of Jen’s friends Matt and Marie who teach in Colville Lake so seeing your photos was great timing. We Canadians are so lucky to have such a rich and diverse country.

  8. Jason Fortier December 24, 2012 at 2:59 pm #

    Hey Pat,,, very proud of you and how your following your passion. Merry Christmas buddy

  9. Sue Winter December 25, 2012 at 1:55 pm #

    My friend, 90 year old Anna Shepherd, here in NYS is a personal friend of Bern Will Brown. She has known him since his days in Rochester, NY. She receives a Christmas card from him every year. I just ordered his first Arctic Journal and his book of photos A Time in the Arctic. Nice to find these photos which I can’t wait to show Anna. Thank you!

  10. Tim Kane December 27, 2012 at 5:57 pm #

    Awesome pictures little brother!!

  11. Jeff Dinsdale February 19, 2013 at 4:12 am #

    I’ve been following your recent coverage of the 2013 Yukon Quest and stumbled across this great photo essay of a place that I have always wanted to visit…thanks for this wonderful look at Colville Lake, its people and a way of life that has almost disappeared. Thanks especially for the photo of Bern Will Brown, another truly great northern photographer.

  12. Julie Lys September 13, 2013 at 3:10 am #

    Beautiful pictures. Thanks Our girl Marti :) My Dad John Evans, a life long hunter and trapper, would be so proud that his grand daughter is purchasing fur. I am one proud Momma :)

  13. Julie Lys September 13, 2013 at 3:12 am #

    Beautiful pictures. That’s our girl Marti :) My Dad, John Evans, a life long hunter and trapper, would be so proud that his grand daughter is purchasing fur. I am one proud Momma :)

  14. Ruth Christensen November 28, 2013 at 7:36 pm #

    I was fortunate enough to visit Coleville Lake a few years ago and it is an amazing community. One of the highlights of my working life.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. “On The Line” in Canadian Geographic | - September 26, 2013

    […] Geographic has picked up my photo story about Colville Lake’s trappers in the latest issue of the magazine (October 2013). I’m pleased that they’re sharing […]

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