True North Calling

Meet a Yellowknife fisherman and father, passing down his traditions

As a third-generation fisherman in Yellowknife, N.W.T., Shawn Buckley also takes tourists on fishing trips on Great Slave Lake. But it's his knowledge of commercial fishing that he most wants to pass down to his young son.

"There's a huge resource of fish in that water. It's life to me. It's like a heartbeat"

Living off the Land - Shawn

6 years ago
Duration 2:25
Shawn's a third generation ice fisherman in Yellowknife with a six-year-old son, Kijel. He's dedicated to having the father-son relationship he never experienced.

Shawn Buckley comes from a long line of fisherman so it's no surprise that he's been fishing all his life. And while he'd never force his six-year-old son into the family trade, he's still quite pleased at the prospect of Kijel following in his footsteps.

"It looks to me like he's really enjoying this, his space and his freedom," Shawn says. 

Living off the Land - Going ice fishing

6 years ago
Duration 2:10
Shawn takes his son, Kijel, ice fishing. While it's a fun day out with dad, Shawn also takes the opportunity to teach Kijel how to fish.

While there's the practical survival reasons for teaching Kijel how to fish sustainably, it's also an opportunity for them to foster the kind of relationship that Shawn never had with his own father.

"My role is being a father and a mentor to him," he says. Adding that he wants to "[make sure Kijel] learns things properly and calmly with a deep respect for the land."

So for this father-son duo, food is never just food, "it's a learning lesson."

Living off the Land - Shawn makes dinner

6 years ago
Duration 1:51
After a long day of fishing Shawn makes dinner for his family. It's more than a meal on their plates - it's a life lesson.

Shawn spends about half the year in commercial fishery. The other half (the winter months) is peak tourist season. According to Shawn, about 99 per cent of his clients are from China and Hong Kong coming to see the Northern Lights – and they've taken quite a shine to him as well. According to his clients, Shawn is quite famous in China.

"There all very interested in this life so it's rewarding to showcase this. I'm promoting the North."

Because, for Shawn, where outsiders see the frozen Great Slave Lake as a desolate wasteland, he sees a beautiful resource. "It's like life to me. It's like a heartbeat."

He does dream of travelling, though. Perhaps going snorkeling in China or Japan with Kijel sometime in the future.

"My son has a big heart. We are best friends."