Fox Chaser: A Winter on the Trapline provides inside look at trapping and sustainability

Robert Grandjambe Jr. grew up learning to trap. It was his childhood dream to become a bushman.

New documentary film follows young Cree trapper's way of life in northern Alberta wilderness

The wilderness' quiet beauty is captured throughout 'Fox Chaser: A Winter on the Trapline,' directed by Rio Mitchell and produced by Chris Hsiung. ( Danny Cox )

The documentary Fox Chaser: A Winter on the Trapline follows a young Cree trapper, detailing his way of life.

Robert Grandjambe Jr. of the Mikisew Cree First Nation ​grew up learning to trap. It was his childhood dream to become a bushman. Today, Grandjambe has traplines near Fort Chipewyan in northeastern Alberta where he was raised.

But his world is changing.

Encroaching industrial development may limit Grandjambe's ability to trap in the wild.

Fox Chaser producer Chris Hsiung told North by Northwest host Sheryl MacKay that the film's director, Rio Mitchell, was instantly intrigued by Grandjambe.

"When Rio met him, she just found him to be this incredible person who knew so much about trapping and living this lifestyle, when no one else was doing it for a living," said Hsiung.

Grandjambe uses every part of the animals that he harvests, honouring his ancestors' traditions. 

Robert Grandjambe Jr. in his trapping cabin, a few hours from Fort Chipewyan, Alta. He spends half the year out in the wilderness, harvesting animals for a living. (Danny Cox )

Duality

Grandjambe is also a millwright who works in the oil and gas industry, working half the year in Fort Chipewyan.

"He just has that perspective of seeing that side of the industry, but also seeing the impact of the industry on the environment," said Hsiung.

In the film, Grandjambe says he's noticed there are fewer bushmen in the wilderness areas he frequents than there were four years ago. He says there used to be more cabins and trappers.

While he works as a millwright for half the year, spending the other half trapping is extremely important to him.

"I'm reminded every day that this environment is changing, and changing fast," Grandjambe says in Fox Chaser. "And it's not going to last forever. So I don't have the time to sit back and work at a plant for 25 more years. My existence in the bush is now or never." 

The film shows Grandjambe driving past oil and gas industry plants, watching smoke billow into the air.

"[Grandjambe] is in that duality, which I think all Albertans are in. We want to protect our pristine, beautiful environment. But at the same time we also depend on having that industry that can also damage that environment," said Hsiung.

Filming the wilderness

The filming team captured the winter landscape around Fort Chipewyan, Alta., often in  –30 C weather.

Fox Catcher shows Grandjambe in his cabin, going out onto the trapline, clearing the line and setting traps.

"He loves this lifestyle … he's somebody who grew up with it. He sees the beauty in that kind of lifestyle," said Hsiung.​


Fox Chaser: A Winter on the Trapline is available online and airs on CBC Television tonight at 7 p.m. as part of the Absolutely Canadian film series.

Listen to the full interview:

Producer Chris Hsiung talks to North by Northwest host Sheryl MacKay about the new CBC documentary 'Fox Chaser: A Winter on the Trapline.' A film that follows young Cree trapper Robert Grandjambe Jr. in Northern Alberta. 12:42

With files by North by Northwest.

About the Author

Laura Sciarpelletti

Associate Producer

Laura is a journalist for CBC Vancouver. Follow her on Twitter: @MeLaura. Send her news tips at laura.sciarpelletti@cbc.ca