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Photo Aklavik Plane skidoos 1970

Childhood in the Mackenzie Delta

[Around June 15th]…we used to take our dogs, toboggans, everything from our camp, put them in the boat, and take the whole family or 2 families or 3 families, and travel…Everyone would go to a place called Aklavik… In the summer we would whale and make dry fish, and get enough blubber for the winter… In the fall, when we were not travelling, we would go back to our camp and fish from around October to November. November 1st, my father used to get ready to go trapping… They trapped from November 1st until the 21st or 25th of December… They would take their catch to Aklavik around Christmas. We had 4 main trips to the town with the family: in September, December, Easter and in June. We never went at any other time.
Abraham Okpik was born in a special birthing tent, delivered by a midwife who was also his mother’s cousin, on January 12th, 1929. His birth coincided with the arrival of the sun that year. His namesake, Auktalik, was a shaman, one of the last of the angakkuit who had a special power to heal.

He witnessed the end of an era in the fur trade, as he can recall a time when the Hudson’s Bay Company and the Northern Traders Co. travelled around the North by dogsled, delivering supplies and buying skins from trappers on the spot. When the families of the trappers gathered around towns or around the outpost camps, the Inuit, the Indians, the Catholics and the Anglicans would live in their own discreet groups, and there was not much exchange between them.

Abe remembers how the elders would visit and tell stories, some so scary that they could be compared to modern-day horror films.

Abe remembers one story about the arrival of the first plane in Aklavik, in July 1929: the elders heard the plane’s motor and wondered what sort of creature was approaching. The shaman Apakaq said that he could fly much faster with his spirit when he inikmaq!