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.