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Life of a Metis trapper

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Monday, June 18, 2007

FORT SMITH - Fort Smith is about to get a unique look at the lifestyle of Pi Kennedy, a trapping legend in the Northwest Territories.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Fort Smith's Pi Kennedy traps at Oulton Lake in early 2006. - photo courtesy of Stuart Barr

Beginning with a grand opening on June 22, Northern Life Museum is presenting an exhibit - "Pi Kennedy: Life of a Metis Trapper" - consisting of about 25 photos of his life on the trapline.

The photos were taken in early 2006 by Libby Gunn, of Fort Smith, and Stuart Barr, of Peace River, Alta.

Gunn, who has known Kennedy for about 20 years, said the exhibit is both educational and a birthday celebration for Kennedy, who turned 80 in December.

"It's a tribute to him," she said.

Gunn said the exhibit and an accompanying digital slide show also celebrates Kennedy's tenacity in carrying on trapping despite his advancing years.

Kennedy, whose real first name is Philip, said he wants people to know about his many years as a trapper, noting he has been in the bush since he was 10.

"I just keep going on and on," he said. "I really enjoy it. That's why I'm still out there."

In fact, he said he enjoys his life in the bush more now than when he was younger.

Most recently, he spent eight months alone at his cabin, and plans to return again later this year, despite his arthritis.

"If I'm healthy enough, I'll go back," he said. "I'm still very enthusiastic about it."

Kennedy believes he was the last person in the NWT to use a dog team on his trapline. While he now uses a snowmobile, he still owns dogs.

The photos for the exhibit were taken at Oulton Lake, which has not been seen by many Fort Smith residents. The lake is just over 100-kilometres north of Fort Smith.

"Hardly anyone has ever been there," Gunn noted.

She is looking forward to the exhibit opening. "I'm really excited about it."

The exhibit may be the first time Northern Life Museum has dedicated an exhibit to one living person.

"As far as I know, this is something pretty unique," said Kim Harding, the museum manager.

Gunn and Stuart approached the museum in November about staging the exhibit.

"We jumped at the chance," Harding said, adding the photos are spectacular.

She said the exhibit fits into the museum's mandate to promote the cultural lifestyle and history of Thebacha.

Harding noted Kennedy is a fascinating personality and one of the few remaining people to make a full-time living as a trapper.

The exhibit opens to the public on June 23 and will run to Sept. 7.