Our schedule for the next couple of days gets a bit more relaxed. We are staging out of Inuvik for a few days, and flying for a day to the communities around, like Aklavik, Tuktoyaktuk etc. Today is Aklavik.
The flight to and from Aklavik is only 15-20 minutes over the same delta of MacKenzie.
Aklavik community is served by a twice-per-day commercial flight to Inuvik. Often these flights are cancelled, because there is obviously no precision approach here, and the weather is often below VFR. And if you get on the flight to Inuvik, be prepared to pay for these 15 minutes in the air an air face comparable to Vancouver to Toronto flight.
But what we found out soon from the people from Aklavik, that these river waters are actually navigable. You can take your own boat from Aklavik to Inuvik or a “bus”. In winter, it turns into ice road, when you drive on solid ice over the river. When the ice reaches certain thickness, even big trucks can go on it! But the hard time is in-between: when the ice is not strong enough to support cars, but still does not let boats to navigate. With the global warming, the window when ice roads are usable shrinks every year.
This is particularly important for us in the Canadian Arctic Aviation Tour. CAAT is the only Canada 150 project officially certified “Carbon Zero”. We are blessed abundantly by the mother nature in Canada. And one of the goals of the CAAT project is to make aware and educate, so that we can all together preserve it for tomorrow.
Aklavik is actually the old/new Inuvik. Today it is a hamlet of appx. 700 people. But it used to be quite a bit bigger, and was the centre of the area. One day, government decided to found Inuvik, and moved people, schools, churches, hospital etc. from old Aklavik to Inuvik. But people loved Aklavik so much, that some of them returned right back and make Aklavik all over.
This is not the only occurrence where the government did not quite think things through (or did they?). Grise Fjord community is another example. In 1952, politicians decided to exercise their sovereignty as far North as possible, and moved a number of inuit people to Grise Fjord, Nunavut. People were told that this was a temporary move, for a short period of time. But after the move, the government just left, and inuits in Grise Fjord had to survive on their own in the middle of the High Arctic wilderness. Since then, it’s the most Northern community in the country. What about Alert? Yes, it is further North, but it is a military base, not a community – so does not count.
Another example? Residential school system. This is a system of boarding schools for indigenous people funded by Canadian government and administered by Christian churches. The official purpose was to assimilate children with Canadian culture and lifestyle, and give them the chance to have good education and career opportunities shall they choose to do so, incl. (primarily) contributing back to their own community. The sad truth was that often children were permanently separated from parents, and a culture foreign to theirs was forced on them.
On the other hand, there are communities that have done pretty well for themselves. Old Crow’s 250 people are entrepreneurs and investors. They took a settlement from the government for their land, and currently own 49% of Air North airline. With this, they became self sufficient.
The airport in Aklavik is named after Freddie Carmichael, the first indigenous pilot to ever get his commercial license – who came from Aklavik.
The first person to greet us upon arrival (around noon) was Annie B, an elder. She was so excited about the airshow, that she was waiting for us since 9am. She shared with us that she has 14 children (10 of her own and 4 adopted), and she said that she has no idea anymore how many grandchildren she has.
Everybody else came to the airport shortly after they heard the planes coming.
Annie B said right away that 80-year-old Bud is way too young for her!
People are also here much more relaxed. Mario asked one of the local guys what time it was. That person replied: “I don’t know. I threw my watch away 20 years ago. I just know it’s early June”.
Before the airshow begun, Annie B sang a prayer for the safety of all pilots.
Eagle is a symbol of strength in the inuit culture. As Anna Sky Dancer as opening the airshow with the graceful sky dance, an eagle come and shared the aerobatic box, as if guarding and dancing wingovers in sync.
Prior to departure, one of the local people invited us to drive around in his truck to show the town. For a small community of 700 people, we were surprised to see that they have a school up to grade 12, community centre and sports centre incl. swimming pool and hockey rink, health centre and 3 churches – Anglican, Protestant and Catholic. And a neat story of the mad trapper!
It would be very true to say that when we returned to Aklavik that night, we left a piece of our hearts with the people of Aklavik.
Of course, all nights are young when the sun never sets. The CAAT team spent the evening at the most Northern legion in the country.
David was the most welcoming host, and it was neat to hear some war stories. We also met at the legion some local sailors – read tomorrow’s blog on how that developed! ;)
Canadian Arctic Aviation Tour so far:
Distance flown: 1922 nm (3560 km)
Airshows flown: 20