Moccasin sewing


Students participating in the fall trip to Churchill have been excitedly preparing for this year's arctic research trip! Not only does this trip include scientific research alongside Dr. Jane Waterman and students from multiple schools, but the students are also given the opportunity to learn about the culture and people who inhabit this beautiful place. 


Included in our preparations was the privilege to sew our own moccasins with Carole Fréchette.  Over the last couple weeks we have spent hours and hours beading our moccasins and are now working on putting them together to create a pair of moccasins!


Carole Fréchette is  French-speaking Métis, originally from St. Malo, Manitoba. When she was twelve years old, her mother began teaching her how to make mukluks, moccasins, mitts, and medicine pouches. Carole has taught workshops throughout Winnipeg through the City of Winnipeg Leisure Guide, Indigenous Organizations, and the Winnipeg School Division since 1998.


It is so special for us to learn a skill that so little of us have had the opportunity to try, as well as one that is so important and beautiful to another culture. Carole not only taught us how to do the sewing, but also gave teachings of respect, beauty, difficulty, loss, and especially perseverance. Though some of us were doubtful our beading would turn out how we wanted it to, Carole was encouraging, attentive, and helpful! We are grateful for this opportunity and look forward to spending more time on it during our long train ride tomorrow as we embark on our journey to Churchill!


Dog Sledding


Dog sledding plays an important part of the history, culture & heritage of Northern Canada. While we are in Churchill we have had a wonderful time dog-sledding at BlueSky Expeditions. It is beautiful racing through the trails in the snowy woods. One year we arrived at Churchill very late and got the privilege of dogsledding at night in the magical starlight. Gerald and Jenafor are wonderful hosts and we get to hear all about the dogs that are pulling the sleds. It is wonderful watching Gerald interact with the dogs with great kindness and respect. While waiting for a turn to go sledding, we are gifted with delicious bannock and cookies and hot chocolate and coffee and enjoy going outside to feed the whiskey jacks.


Eskimo Museum / Itsanitaq Museum

The students have the opportunity of visiting and being given a tour of the Itsanitaq (Eskimo) Museum with the oldest collection of Inuit carvings and artifacts dating from Pre-Dorset (1700 B.C.) through Dorset, Thule, and modern Inuit times.


SeaWall Churchill murals

Another favourite tour is driving around Churchill and looking at the beautiful murals that have been offered by 18 painters from around the world in the SeaWalls Churchill Project curated by Winnipeg artist Kal Barteski.


Presentations on the culture and history of Sayisi Dene


We have had the privilege of learning from Caroline Bjorkland, a Sayisi Dene woman, as she talked about her life and how it has been affected by the relocation of her people in 1956.  Caroline shared her experiences in residential schools, the story of her people, and the lessons she has learned about herself and her identity in relation to the culture. Caroline talked about the beautiful traditions and history of her people and showed us the beautiful sewing and beadwork that she has created. The students prepare for this presentation by reading the very powerful book: Night Spirits: The Story of the Relocation of the Sayisi Dene by Ila Bussidor and Ustun Bilgen-Reinart. 


In recent years, we have had presentations about the Sayisi Dene by Florence Hamilton from Parks Canada in Churchill. We have also had Parks Canada presentations on the Three Bears of the North.


Baking Bannock

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The students love learning from each other and especially love exploring Churchill with the JCR members in the program. We have gone trick-or-treating together on Halloween, skated at the arena, gone bowling at the Town Centre, roasted hotdogs over a fire, stayed overnight at the Fort Prince of Wales, driven ATVs at the cottage, cooked together, and set up tents for an overnight at the Town Centre. A favorite has been baking bannock together. 


historic tour of Cape Merry

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The tour that we take of Cape Merry is always VERY COLD!! It is always very interesting to hear this rich history tour from Parks Canada staff.


Cape Merry has a wealth of history and natural beauty. It was once called Knight’s Round Point, as befits the land bounded by the Hudson Bay and the Churchill River. James Knight sailed into the mouth of the Churchill River to begin construction of a fur trading post for the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1717. The cape was later renamed to honor Captain John Merry, who was the Deputy Governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company from 1712-1718. A cannon battery was constructed to guard the river and the river mouth and to prevent enemy occupation at Cape Merry, by providing crossfire. You can still see the site of the first battery and the remains of a powder magazine, which still has the original limestone mortar.


In 1933, the site was added to the Prince of Wales National Historic Site, designated in 1920 by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. A nearby cairn, erected in 1920, commemorates the HBC’s Fort Churchill which, for nearly 200 years, was its most northerly post on Hudson Bay. The Danish explorer Jens Munk wintered across the river above this point in 1619-1620. In 1689 the HBC attempted to establish a post and whale fishery here, but it was only in 1717 that James Knight built a permanent wooden fort at Munk’s wintering site. Between 1740 and 1782 the company occupied the stone Prince of Wales Fort on Eskimo Point; when the French destroyed the latter, Samuel Hearne rebuilt Fort Churchill on Knight’s original site in 1783. The post operated throughout the 19th century, and with the completion of the Hudson Bay Railway in 1929, Churchill became Manitoba’s only ocean port.


Halloween in Churchill


We have had the great fun of spending Halloween in Churchill. The Winnipeg kids were shown around town by the Churchill kids and everyone had a great time and ate lots of candy! This is a very special night in Churchill as volunteers from Polar Bear Alert, Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship, the RCMP, Parks Canada, the Canadian Rangers, the Churchill Fire Department, Churchill's Emergency Medical Services and Manitoba Hydro combine efforts to ensure a safe and fun night for the community's youth. Even a helicopter patrol is done prior to sunset to spot any nearby bears. This is necessary because the town is in the center of a polar bear migration path. The Winnipeg kids were shown around town by the Churchill kids and everyone had a great time and ate lots of candy!