Email this articleE-mail this story  Discuss this articleWrite letter to editor  Discuss this articleOrder a classified ad  Print this page

On the trap line

Northern News Services

Inuvik (Dec 19/05) - Trapping is still a way of life for some people in the North. Recently, the Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur Trapper recognition program awarded trappers from all over the Territories for selling at auctions.

The Inuvik region saw Edward McLeod from Aklavik taking the youth division for selling at the auction, with Victor Allen and Jorgan Elias also getting recognized.

Guy Erasmus with the Industry Tourism and Investment Department said even though trapping is not as big as it once was, there still are people who devote their time to the trap line.

"About 700 people in the Territories sold furs at auction," said Erasmus.

To sell or keep?

Erasmus also added that the number was based on people who sold their furs, so there would still be a large number of people who kept them.

Erasmus said the profit in trapping varies, depending on what type of trapper you are.

"It all comes down to how effectively you trap," said Erasmus.

"How much you're trapping is also a factor."

Erasmus also added that trapping is more of a secondary income for most people.

Frank Stefansson of Inuvik had spent most of his younger life on his trap line.

"When I was eight years old, I got my start," said Stefansson.

Stefansson remembers going out on the land with his father and learning how to maintain his trap line.

"My job was to walk around with a chisel and scout out muskrat push-ups (holes in ice)," said Stefansson.

Stefansson remains with his same piece of land, located on what is known locally as "Shallow river," and is where he trapped until 1966.

"That is when the prices dropped to 42 cents a muskrat pelt," remembered Stefansson.

These days, Stefansson only goes out to trap during ice break-up in the spring.

Stefansson is still an active member of the Canadian Rangers and travels with them on the land for exercises.

The traditions of trapping flow like the rivers that the traps are set on, from elders like Stefansson to younger people.

Edward McLeod is a 17-year-old living in Aklavik. He learned how to trap from his family.

McLeod has only recently started his own line, but has always been involved with the family line.

McLeod travels out of Aklavik for about 30 miles to set his lines there.

"I like teaching younger people about the ways of trapping," said McLeod.

"It passes on the traditions of our people and how we used to catch animals."

McLeod makes trips on the land using his Ski-doo, and enjoys bringing his younger brother out as well.

"I also bring out other younger kids," said McLeod.

Teaching younger people about the methods of living on the land comes easy for McLeod, who was taught by other trappers from Aklavik.

"I bring them out skidooing. In the summer, I bring them boating, so they get used to being on the water."

Erasmus explained the process of selling furs in the Territories.

Once a fur is brought in to the Environment and Natural Resources office, the officer on duty pre-grades the pelt.

That means he checks it over and pays the trapper with a fur advance. The fur gets shipped to the harvester's auction.

For people like Stefansson, memories of the olden days will always bring him happiness.

"I once traded 10 muskrat pelts for a hickory toboggan," said Stefansson.

"Best winter ever."