North

Another tribute for Pi Kennedy, N.W.T. trapper who spent decades alone on the trapline

A calendar for hunters and trappers will feature a tribute page to Pi Kennedy, who spent most of his 95 years living on the land.

'I guess I like bush life,' says Kennedy, 95

Pi Kennedy hunted and trapped with his dog team for over 75 years. He's being featured in a new calendar. (Carla Ulrich/CBC)

A well-known trapper from Fort Smith, N.W.T., has been featured in a trapping calendar.

The calendar, produced annually by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR), typically features useful info for those trapping and hunting on the land.

This year, ENR dedicated a page to Pi (Philip) Kennedy, a 95-year-old Métis hunter and trapper who spent most of his life in the bush. Kennedy received the honour at the N.W.T. Recreation and Parks Association conference, an event that was held in Fort Smith from Oct. 4-6.

An undated photo of Kennedy's homestead. (Submitted by Pi Kennedy)

Noni Paulette, a public education outreach coordinator with ENR, said they interviewed a number of trappers in the North to feature, but it quickly became clear one name stood out.

"We just essentially decided to … dedicate a page in the calendar as a trapper profile in honour of his legacy and what he's done for trapping here in the North," Paulette said.

While it's not the first calendar made, it's the first to feature someone, Paulette said.

Kennedy hunted and trapped with his dog team for over 75 years. 

Kennedy in an undated photo. (Submitted)

His journey on the land began with his father at age 10. When his father died three years later, he took over the trapline.

"He died when he was 44," Kennedy recalled. "So after that I was on my own."

Until 2010, Kennedy spent every winter but one in the bush: trapping, fishing, hunting. He was also an avid Los Angeles Dodgers baseball fan, listening to the games on his bush radio, miles from the nearest human being.

He said he prefers dog sleds over Ski-Doos as the canines can do much of the "driving" while he can look out for possible prey.

"But with a Ski-Doo, you gotta just concentrate on the road," he said.

He said he's escaped death more than once. 

Once, his dad tripped and his gun went off. Kennedy said he felt the wind under his arm as a bullet zoomed by. The bullet went into his hip waders, a thick pair made from canvas and rubber, and he wasn't injured.

Kennedy, aged 95, was a trapper and hunter for most of his life. (Carla Ulrich/CBC)

"My dad was really careful with the gun, but apparently was not at that time," Kennedy recalled.

At the time, the pair were about 60 miles — or about two weeks — from home, which means if he'd been shot, he likely wouldn't have survived. 

Kennedy also recalled some precarious moments sledding over thin ice. 

And he may have dodged death again in 1984 when he fell incapacitated at his cabin, after having a stroke. A friend had not heard from him for a few days over the radio and grew worried, so called in a rescue plane.

Kennedy credits that friend for saving his life.

A painting of a man on a sled being pulled by a dog sled team.
A painting by Vance Sanderson of Kennedy, out with his old dog sled team. (Carla Ulrich/CBC)

The calendar isn't the only tribute Kennedy's received. As a keen photographer, he documented much of his life, and about 1,000 of his photographs were showcased in the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre.

He's also been featured at the Northern Life Museum in Fort Smith.

Kennedy said he was excited to be honoured at the conference.

"I guess I like bush life," he said.

With files from Carla Ulrich and Jimmy Thomson

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