It’s been a long time, do you remember who I am? I haven’t posted since November: just over 3 months ago! Which is too bad, because lots has been going on up in Hay River!
Let’s see… Well, we survived the longest days of the year in December. Where we are located, we are never in total darkness like some towns just North of us, but it was pretty dark there nevertheless. Sun would rise at about 9:30 am, but wouldn’t be high in the sky; it would just grace the horizon line and set around 3:00, leaving us in total darkness by about 4pm, which made for interesting teaching days! When I substituted at the elementary school in December, I would sometimes have outdoor duty before the bell would ring at 8:30. The students were all playing in the snow, in about -30 weather, in complete darkness with the street lights on. Something I was not used to. Then recess would still be pretty dark out- kind of like dawn (but very cloudy) at 10:15 am, and by lunch, it was a nice shade of grey outside. Driving home at 4:00, light grey turned to dark grey/almost black out. But really, it wasn’t that bad because we went away to visit Jeremy’s family for Christmas and were gone about 3 weeks, and by the time we came back in January, it was much brighter.
Things get sunny up here pretty quickly- you have to remember for the amount of darkness we get in the winter, we get that sunlight in the summer. And here, the sun truly does not set-well it barely does, but the sunlight sticks around until the next sunrise. So looking out my window, it’s about -40 today and extremely sunny; sun’s up by 7 and bright and sets around 6:30pm now.
Christmas was a nice vacation. Leading up to Christmas, I was asked to be a part of a sewing circle with a woman named Dorothy whom I met teaching. She was substituting for the Dene language class and she quickly learned how amazed I was with all of the native art and crafts up here. I began going to her mother’s house (her mother is about 85 years old and is an Elder on the reserve) on Tuesday nights, where I learned how to traditionally bead. And it is not as easy as it looks!First a pattern is drawn on a piece of material called stroud. then you have a beading needle (thin enough so beads can slide onto it) and each bead is sewn on individually and is secured by a second piece of thread while following the pattern.
Below are some pictures of Dorothy and her mother, who are both absolutely amazing women who keep their traditions alive by taking pleasure in teaching those who want to learn. The first picture are some moccasin’s that Dorothy’s mother made by hand and beaded (not to be confused by mukluks which come up past the ankle). Next is a picture of Dorothy and her mother together, followed by a picture of a guitar strap that her mother beaded. Amazing work.
I really loved just sitting there and listening to their stories. I try to learn the language too- it’s called South Slavey, and it is really only spoken in this area. I have a book written by Dorothy herself with all of the words and a CD with how the words sound. We will see how far I get.
I’m not sure if I had blogged that Jeremy became a Canadian Ranger around November as well, but there is a patrol coming up this month where they have to travel to Fort Resolution and learn survival skills while living outside for a week. He had learned that beaver fur is the warmest fur and will be the only material that will keep his hands and head warm, so he asked if I could buy some beaver mitts from Dorothy. (The going rate for beaver mitts around here is about $300.00 ). As a side note, fur is a major commodity up here, but it is not for the fashion. Everybody wears fur hats, gloves and many other things up here to stay warm. Dorothy told me if I can buy a beaver pelt myself, she will teach me to make mitts, which I secretly did as I was going to surprise Jeremy with them.
I found a craft place out of a woman’s house (Diane’s crafts, see picture below) and she sells pelts there.
While Jeremy spent a lot of time out of town working in Inuvik NT, I was sewing up a storm. I gave him the beaver mitts for Christmas, and he really loved them. I’ll post some pictures below so you can see them in the process of being made: it took maybe 4 weeks to make them as they had to be done by hand. The palm part of the gloves is made out of smoked moose hyde. The mitts are very big as they are meant for a second pair of gloves to be worn on the inside. I also made two pairs out of white rabbit fur for my mom and for my mother-in-law. It is what everybody wears here during the cold months to keep warm.
Below is a picture of Dorothy at my house, showing me how to cut the fur. She uses a razor blade- you can’t use scissors as it cuts the fur; the razor only cuts through the leather part without touching the fur. You would have a jagged, unnatural fur line if you use scissors. Also is a picture of the beaver pelt I bought for $150.00. It was considered a “large” (sizes were small, medium, large and extra large). I barely had enough to make 1 pair of mitts; since all of the fur has to be going the same direction on both mitts, you have ad to be very careful when planning on where to cut your pattern from.
Other then that, I have been very busy teaching at the schools in and around Hay River, averaging about 4-5 days per week lately. I have now taught from K-12 and have done many extra activities around town, so life has been busy!
There is a lot going on up here lately so I will try to post more often! Take care! Happy 2011!