N.W.T. families swap city life for living on the land during COVID-19
‘It's freeing being disconnected and setting camp up,’ says Melaw Nakehk'o
Off the highway down a ways through the bush still blanketed in snow and among a tall stand of birch trees, three generations of family are reconnecting with the land.
Melaw Nakehk'o made the decision to leave Yellowknife with her three boys to live at her parent's camp along the Mackenzie River between Fort Simpson and Wrigley, N.W.T.
Her kids have swapped playing video games for chopping wood with their grandfather, while she sets her sights on creating a clearing for a hide-tanning area for some moose pelts she's been saving over the winter.
"It's been really helpful to not become overwhelmed or stressed out about what's happening," Nakehk'o said to CBC's The Trailbreaker host Loren McGinnis. "It's freeing being disconnected and setting camp up and playing with my kids."
Nakehk'o, like some in the territory, have made the decision to spend more time out on the land during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In town, she found herself shutting her phone off for entire days at a time, then being forced to turn it back on.
"It seemed like there was this unachievable balance I was struggling with," she said.
While her older kids sometimes feel they're missing out staying up to date with their friends on social media, she hopes they are making memories that they'll appreciate, eventually.
"My oldest is like, 'We're just hermits. The whole world is experiencing this whole thing and you just want to hermit away,'" she said laughing.
'Wonderful time' upriver
A little further upriver, 13-year-old Keirah Simon is having as she puts it, a "wonderful time."
Her father also made the decision to take her and her 11-year-old brother to Jean Marie River, N.W.T., to stay with his parents during the pandemic.
"It feels way better than being in the city, that's for sure," she said.
Simon has been riding around on both snowmobile and quad, pulling over every so often to look at wolf tracks while her grandmother, Lucy, cooks up a pot of duck soup.
"It's really a blessing to my husband and I that our grandkids are … with us, they're learning … more about plucking ducks and getting it prepared," Lucy said.
"But I haven't taught them how to make bannock on the fire yet."
It's been more than 20 years since her son, Paul, has been home for the spring harvest.
He's relearning the "tricks and trades" of living on the land from his father, Isadore, a more experienced hunter who said his grandchildren don't hesitate to "get their hands dirty and ask a lot of questions."
Paul said his kids have the freedom "to do pretty much whatever they want."
"[COVID-19] has left us isolated but we're making the best of it."
With files from Loren McGinnis