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A special connection

American can't get enough of Nahanni history

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Simpson (Aug 08/03) - A chemist from Minnesota with a passion for Nahanni legends? As unlikely as that combination may sound, Norm Kagan is that person.

Visiting Fort Simpson while on vacation last week, he devoted several hours to clearing brush and resetting the stones at Albert Faille's grave. The headstone is familiar to Kagan. From his home in St. Paul, Minnesota, he launched the fund-raising effort to have it made. In 1991, it was shipped north to be placed on Faille's final resting place, in the small cemetery behind Fort Simpson's federal building.

"I've always felt a certain connection to the grave," said Kagan.

What hooked him on the fabled Nahanni was the "adventure and daring do" described in Raymond M. Patterson's book Dangerous River, he said.

Kagan eventually learned that Faille, like himself, was from Minnesota. According to Kagan, Faille was an orphan who became a hobo riding freight trains. He spent many years hunting and trapping in the northern United States until the practice became too regulated for his liking.

He decided to move to Northern Canada and first settled in an area known as Beaver River, now Kakisa River. He relocated to Fort Simpson and became a legendary prospector, travelling to Nahanni country to trap and search for elusive gold.

"That's when gold fever was rekindled," said Kagan, who is weaving together information for his own manuscript. "I've been steeped in the history for a long time."

Kagan has made several trips to the NWT over the past few decades.

He has canoed the South Nahanni and Flat rivers to see for himself the places where people like Faille, the McLeod brothers and Gus Kraus used to roam.

He has also designed a Web site with information on Faille, games and even a virtual tour of Faille's cabin.

With an eye for detail, he even included a recipe for bannock (logging cake) on Faille's kitchen table.

The site can be found at: http://marina.fortunecity.com/reach/361/mainpage.htm