Hunting, trapping, patience and kindness: Northerners remember lessons from fathers

Memories of dad's in the North are tied to the great outdoors for Jonas Norwegian and Gerry Kisoun.

Jonas Norwegian and Gerry Kisoun reflect on lessons learned from their fathers on the land

Leo Norwegian and Charles Yohin, coming down from hunting beaver up the Flat River. Jonas Norwegian remembers springtime on the land with his step-father, Leo, as some of his fondest memories. (NWT Archives/Kraus family fonds/N-1990-022: 0550)

For anyone who doesn't have a dad to celebrate this Father's Day, Jonas Norwegian has a suggestion. 

"Adopt one for the day. It's fun."

Norwegian is spending the day thinking about his stepfather, Leo Norwegian.

He recalls travelling out to Rabbitskin River with Leo – who he called dad – around March and spending springtime on the land until they returned to Fort Simpson, N.W.T., around June. 

Norwegian said probably he spent three springs on the land with Leo but the 1966 outing, when he was 12, stands out. 

Along with waking up to snow outside his "bedroom" and Leo asking him to make fire, Norwegian recalls the Stanley Cup playoffs from that spring. 

His step-dad was a Montreal Canadiens fan, and the Habs were facing the Detroit Red Wings. 

Norwegian remembers Leo checking the time and telling him they would find a nice spot to camp, then set up their old zenith radio and listen to the hockey game while Leo skinned a beaver.   

"'We'll get a nice, fat beaver and hang it by the fire and just slowly cook it while we listen to the hockey game,'" he recalls Leo saying. 

For Norwegian, that spring elicits a quote from a Kris Kristofferson song: Me And Bobby McGee.

"I'll trade all my tomorrows for a single yesterday," Norwegian told The Trailbreaker host Loren McGinnis on Friday. "I'll never forget those memories." 

He also remembers Leo teaching him to shoot and to skin beaver. 

"He was patient, but he would show you only once," Norwegian said. "He said, 'If you don't do it right the first time, you're going to pay for it.'"

Norwegian said he passes lessons from Leo on to his own kids. 

He never says "can't", "could've" or "should've", and is always nice to everyone because, as Leo would say, he might be the last man on shore with a rope.

'I learned a lot from my father on that trip'

Gerry Kisoun also reflected on lessons from his father on The Trailbreaker

He remembers spending a spring at his great-grandfather's camp and hunting with his dad to provide for his siblings and mother. 

"I learned a lot from my father on that trip," he said. "Pulling over the ice, hunting muskrat and getting ducks along the way."

Gerry Kisoun remembers learning from his dad about the hard work of being on the land to provide for your family, as well as the value of education. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

Kisoun remembers falling asleep once at the front of the canoe around 4 a.m.

His father tapped the side of the boat and said, "'That paddle must be heavy.'"

Kisoun, wanting to keep up with his dad, assured him it wasn't and kept on paddling. 

"About an hour or so later we were up on some other part of the lake and I fell asleep again," Kisoun recalled. "He taps the side of the boat again and says the pencil is really light."

He said his dad's lessons taught him what hard work it is to live off the land, and also the importance of education. 

By Natalie Pressman with files from Loren McGinnis