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Tales from the past

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, April 03, 2008

LIIDLII KUE/FORT SIMPSON - When Elizabeth (Betty) Hardisty thinks back to her trip on her mother's trapline she now realizes she was probably more of a burden than a help.

"It must have been a lot of work," she said.

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Elizabeth Hardisty gestures while describing the work that went into caring for her mother's dog team during a literacy event at Bompas elementary school. - photo courtesy of Val Gendron

Hardisty had recently returned from school at Akaitcho Hall in Yellowknife in the late 1960s when her parents, Philip and Lucy Bonnetrouge, invited her to go on a trip to their traplines. Together with her parents' two dog teams they flew to their cabin at Bulmer Lake.

Hardisty shared her story about the trip with the students and parents that gathered in Bompas elementary school on March 27 for an event called Story Celebrations: A connecting event between the youth and elders of Fort Simpson.

The evening was designed to provide a literacy-based community event that would bring together children and elders, said Lea Lamoureux, a teacher at the school who organized the event.

"The goal was to allow the children to hear stories from elders they wouldn't normally have access to," said Lamoureux.

All of the students sat quietly on the floor of the school's library while Hardisty spoke about the trip.

Hardisty's parents made their living trapping for approximately 10 years starting in the early 1960s. On this trip they packed all of their supplies and landed the plane on the ice at the lake.

Both parents had separate traplines and Hardisty went out with her mother. Before leaving the cabin they prepared some food for the trip including boiled white beans that were frozen to eat later and bannock.

"We didn't have a microwave then," said Hardisty.

When all of the supplies were ready they were packed into the sled that Hardisty also rode in while her mother managed the five-dog team. During the three or four days on the trapline Hardisty's mother checked all her traps for animals. When they stopped for the night she would quickly skin them and roll the pelts into balls to stretch when they returned to the cabin.

Most of the work on the trip involved looking after the dog team, said Hardisty. It took a lot of time to care for the dogs each day and get them in and out of their harnesses, she said.

Because she added weight to the sled by riding in it and wasn't familiar with the tasks, Hardisty said she probably made more work for her mother on the trip.

Louisa Moreau also shared stories of her childhood at the event. Born in the bush, Moreau described how her early years were different than what most children experience today.

"We never had all the luxuries you kids have," she said.

There was no running water at their home. Doing laundry involved scrubbing the clothes manually.

There were also no televisions so children made their own entertainment, said Moreau. Children enjoyed going sliding and storytelling.

If the girls had nothing to do they would sit and sew. In the fall they would pick berries, she explained.

"It was hard but it was fun in its own way because you always kept busy," said Moreau.

After listening to the two women speak some students got up and read their own compositions. All the students also spent time reading books with an adult at the end.

The event was made possible through funding from the Department of Education, Culture and Employment, said Lea Lamoureux. If more funding becomes available, Lamoureux said she would like to organize a series of the story events each with a different focus including trapping and traditional foods.