Monday, April 13, 2015

Showcasing Shamattawa

I want to apologize for the long absence between posts. Let me tell you a bit about what I have been doing. I graduated from university in 2012, then spent a year teaching in Bangkok, Thailand. After I returned, I headed north with my spouse to Shamattawa, Manitoba, for another teaching job. Now I am back in southern Manitoba and want to catch up. I have had quite a few adventures exploring Canada since my last post.

Perimeter Aviation Flies into Shamattawa Daily, Weather Permitting, and Calm Air is used for Charter Flights.
The first place I want to showcase is Shamattawa, Manitoba. I think this is especially important because very few people will ever have a chance to go there. It seems whenever Shamattawa gets press, it is not good, but that is hardly fair! I hope to write a book about it as well, so you can look for that in the future!

The Band Office and the Northern Store.
First of all, you need to understand what it is like to live in a place that can only be accessed by plane for most of the year. There is one store, The Northern, and it receives shipments by air 2 days a week weather permitting. If there is a big storm, you have to go without. For example, we often drank powdered milk in the winter, when the store ran out of regular milk during a storm.

Exploring the Abandoned Hull of an Airplane that Crashed in a Storm.
Shamattawa is located south of Hudson Bay, where Gods River and the Echoing River meet. It is approximately where the Canadian Shield meets the Arctic Tundra, making for rocky ground, with lots of trees and no noticeable hills. This allows storm systems from the Bay to blow in from the north without warning. The land is rugged and unforgiving, but it is also peaceful and beautiful.

Bringing Groceries Home by Toboggan.

The main institutions of Shamattawa are the Northern, the Band Office, the RCMP station, the Nurse's station, the airport, Abraham Beardy Memorial School, AWASIS, and several churches. For recreation most people look to the great outdoors for hiking and fishing, or other activities. Most locals have ATVs and snowmobiles for everyday use, as well as leisure.

Hiking Near the Popular Fishing Spot, Whiskey Point.

If you like dogs, there are lots that will be happy to be your best friend. They also might be helpful if you encounter any local wildlife. The area is home to several very large black bears, as well as wolves, wolverines, geese, caribou, and moose. Occasionally, a polar bear may wander through, if it is really lost. However, if you are looking for polar bears, you should probably set your sights on Churchill!

Black Bear at the Local Dump.
In January or February, when the rivers freeze over, the winter roads open for 2-3 months. This is when the community gets most of its supplies. Trucks with building supplies, fuel, school supplies, etc. make the long trek from Thompson, or even Winnipeg. People also go out to neighbouring communities, and often come home with new vehicles or trucks full of food and new clothes. The closest community is Gillam, which is approximately 200km away. It can take anywhere from 4-14 hours to get between these communities depending on conditions. There are no services on the winter roads, so you must leave prepared!

Walking on the River with our Dog Companions.
Children enjoy playing outside, including ice skating in the winter, and swimming in the summer. They are huge hockey fans, and love it if someone clears some ice for them to play. In the summer church groups often come up to conduct bible camps. Teenagers sometimes join Junior Rangers for lots of camping and trips into the bush. At Christmas, Santa flies-in by airplane to bring gifts!

Fly-in Santa and Mrs. Claus Give Gifts at the Airport.
Shamattawa is currently building a new school that will be N-12. The current school is only N-10 and older students leave the community to finish high school in Thompson or Winnipeg. The new school should be opening in fall of 2015.

The New School Being Built.

ABMS opened in 1989. Before that Students Attended Residential Schools.
Like many remote communities, life in Shamattawa can be challenging. Unexpectedly you can be without heat or water for hours or days at a time. If you visit places like Shamattawa you will experience absolute stillness, and in it you will find yourself. Hopefully, you will like what you find. The barren landscape and harsh winters can be isolating, so it is important to build community, and spend time outdoors. You will learn that you are stronger than you think!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Manitobans Are Delightfully Stubborn

So I have lived in Manitoba for nearly 3 years now. The first year for anyone is really more of some sort of test. Everyone is just waiting to see if you survive your first winter before they initiate you as an honorary Manitoban (if you stay that long.) The thing you will hear most in your first year will be "So why did you move to [insert Manitoba town name here]?" I found this question extremely annoying at first but the longer you stay here the more you realize people really want to know. It's not just the harsh winter you need to worry about in your first year either. You will be going through some sort of culture shock. Even if you are just moving from elsewhere in the country you need to make your away around your new town, make new friends and acquaintances, get used to how long prairie days are, and learn a whole new wet of local jargon.

When you move to Manitoba it will go one of two ways:
1) You come face to face with Manitoba and decide you need to get as far away from here as possible, ASAP
2) You find something in this harsh terrain that keeps you here

I know I love the ever-changing farm land, the long days, the clear starry nights, sparkling hoarfrost covered trees, and the friendly people. One thing that comes as a surprise though is that I also love how stubborn the people are here. I love that ice cream vendors are open March to October, and even if it is 5 below people will be lined up outside with their breath crystallizing into ice clouds, while wearing capris and t-shirts. It darn well better be summer, because we say so! The truth of the matter is that Manitoba does not have a season called summer. The seasons are as follows: Winter, Tick Season, Mosquito Season, More Winter. That never dampens the spirits of Manitobans though. We like our ice cream, and our slurpees... and we will walk to the 7-11 in 40 below!

In my three years here, I have learned what freezing rain and snow drifts are. I have made new friends. I have taken to going to the 'Peg as many weekends as I can. (It really is the only city in Manitoba.) I have survived all of the Manitoba seasons. I have learned to love the vastness of the prairies and the deep blue of summer skies. I have developed a higher tolerance for wind. I have learned to navigate without mountains and tell the time by the sun. I have driven swathers and combines. I've learned everything I have ever wanted to know about canola and more. I've discovered the art of driving politely, and somehow managed to avoid learning the Bootstrap Boogie. (Manitobans tell me it is super easy, but maybe I am just uncoordinated!)

I love Manitoba. Seriously! *finishes ice cream*

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Historical Sites in Winnipeg, Manitoba

I spent my weekend in Winnipeg visiting some local historical sites and I thought I would share them with you. The sites I visited had to do with Metis and Fur Trade era Canadian history.


The most well known site was of course Lower Fort Garry. At this sight you get the opportunity to interact with history. There are museum portions of this site but most of it is set up using the original buildings and items from the time period along with reenactors to bring history to life. Talk to reenactors and learn about what their roles are at the fort. Learn about the construction of the fort and all of its business and social proceedings. Don't miss the shows that are scheduled at intervals throughout the day!

You can learn about different trades and take part in social activities. Try some bannock or take tea. Help to judge Cast Iron Chef. Get there early and watch the flag raising ceremony.

This experience is great for a day of family fun or as a school field trip. They will even put on special activities for birthday parties! Don't miss this site on your next trip to Winnipeg. Open during the summer and also for Halloween events at the fort.

There is an admission fee. Check their website for more details:


If you are interested in Metis history you will want to check out Riel House. This little-known attraction is the house where Louis Riel's family lived.

Explore the rooms and garden with the help of your tour guide. This site is relatively quiet so you will have an opportunity to really look at things at your own pace and ask questions. You will get a better idea about Riel family geneaology and develop an understanding of the size and shape of the Red River plots beyond what you can get from a map.

This is a must-see stop! There is a small admission fee. Learn more here:


The final place worth visiting is the Seven Oaks Museum. It is a museum inside a historic home near the site of the Battle of Seven Oaks. This museum is small but noteworthy and it is very unfortunate that it is often overlooked.

The museum is city-funded and due to the low number of visitors each year it is under threat of being closed in the near future. I strongly encourage people to visit this museum. There is no admission fee but a small donation would be greatly appreciated and make sure to sign the guest book so that they know you've been there! There is a general store and then a two story home that you can explore. Ask about the inhabitants of the house or about the Battle of Seven Oaks.

Examine unusual and interesting artifacts. Ask to view the spectacular masonry of the cellar. This place is so historically significant that staff have found musket balls and other artifacts in the yard while doing maintenance work. It would be a shame to see it close.

View their webpage for their location and hours:

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Definition of a Canadian

Once in a while someone does a nice job of describing a Canadian, this time it was an Australian dentist.

You probably missed it in the local news, but there was a report that someone in Pakistan had advertised in a newspaper an offer of a reward to anyone who killed a Canadian - any Canadian..

An Australian dentist wrote the following editorial to help define what a Canadian is, so they would know one when they found one.
A Canadian can be English, or French, or Italian, Irish, German, Spanish, Polish, Russian or Greek. A Canadian can be Mexican, African, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Australian, Iranian, Asian, Arab, Pakistani or Afghan.

A Canadian may also be a Cree, M├ętis, Mohawk, Blackfoot, Sioux, or one of the many other tribes known as native Canadians. A Canadian's religious beliefs range from Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu or none. In fact, there are more Muslims in Canada than in Afghanistan . The key difference is that in Canada they are free to worship as each of them chooses. Whether they have a religion or no religion, each Canadian ultimately answers only to God, not to the government, or to armed thugs claiming to speak for the government and for God.

A Canadian lives in one of the most prosperous lands in the history of the world. The root of that prosperity can be found in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which recognize the right of each person to the pursuit of happiness.

A Canadian is generous and Canadians have helped out just about every other nation in the world in their time of need, never asking a thing in return. Canadians welcome the best of everything, the best products, the best books, the best music, the best food, the best services and the best minds. But they also welcome the least - the oppressed, the outcast and the rejected.

These are the people who built Canada. You can try to kill a Canadian if you must as other blood-thirsty tyrants in the world have tried but in doing so you could just be killing a relative or a neighbour. This is because Canadians are not a particular people from a particular place. They are the embodiment of the human spirit of freedom. Everyone who holds to that spirit, everywhere, can be a Canadian.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Some Manitoba Winter Terminology

-40 degrees Celsius - This is also about -40 degrees Fahrenheit. Very, very cold. Sometimes it gets even colder than this during a Manitoba winter. When it gets this cold even the locals try to avoid going outside. To understand how cold this is picture the air sparkling because there are literally frozen crystals suspended in the air... that's right! It is so cold that the air begins to freeze. If you throw a bucket of water out your door it will freeze before it hits the ground. This is very hard to prove as there is danger of you camera freezing also. Electronic lose battery power from being outside in this extreme cold for any period of time. It is not out of the question to warm up your car in order to avoid walking to blocks in this temperature!

Snow Drift - For those of you unfamiliar with Manitoba snow, it is drier than snow found in other regions. It is also lighter and blows around in the air. It blows across the highway looking like rapids on a river, and obscuring your view. A snow drift is where this light snow is blown into a mound.

Block Heater - This device is attached to your car battery to keep it warm enough that your car will start. The block heater must be plugged in when you are parked for any length of time. It will plug into any regular electrical outlet but you will need a special extension cord. Make sure you find the one that is for up to -40 degrees Celsius. The ones that are good up to -50 are preferable if you can find one. One nice feature most of these cords have is the ability to light up on the end so you can find them in the dark. You may need more than one length of these cords depending on places you normally visit.

Scarf - This item, generally viewed as a fashion accessory everywhere else actually serve a functional purpose. They are worn across the face to prevent nose and lungs from freezing when one tries to breathe outside in Manitoba winter. If you own glasses it is advised you either get some anti-fog spray or invest in contact lenses.

Freezing Rain - Basically what it sounds like. The bane of Manitoba winters because it creates extremely dangerous driving conditions.

Hoar Frost - One of the more beautiful aspects of Manitoba winters. When the temperatures are just right during the night hoar frost forms. The trees are literally encrusted with white ice crystals when you wake up in the morning. You have to see it to understand just how beautiful it is.

Long Johns - Long Underwear. Last winter my parents bought me some as a joke. I didn't consider it one. There are days where you just need to have long underwear if you plan to be going anywhere, including long car drives. Sometimes your car's heater just can't compete with a Manitoba winter.

Thermal Socks - Specialized really warm socks. Worn for the same reason as Long Johns, it is way too cold not to!

Slurpee Run - A trip to 7-11. Ok, so this is more of an all-season term but I am putting it here just to emphasize that Manitobans think it is a good idea to be going on a Slurpee run when it is 40 below. It is not the Slurpee capital for no reason! There is so logic to this. When you enter a house after being outside in the Manitoba winter you literally have to start stripping layers, and even so you may find yourself feeling too warm. Slurpees or ice cream work as good temperature regulators.

Mukluks - A form of winter boot made of leather that were first created by the First Nations people.

Skidoo - A very useful thing to have if there is a black out during a Manitoba winter storm. Can navigate the streets better than a car to get you necessary supplies. A hand-crank radio is also a wise idea so you know where to get said supplies. Even better would be a generator.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

In Flanders Fields

By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.



I encourage fellow Canadians to take time out of their busy schedule tomorrow to remember the soldiers who bravely gave their lives for our freedom.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Happy Canada Day Yet Again!

I am proud to say I will be spending this occasion serving the people of Brandon, MB their donuts and coffees from one of the 3 Brandon Tim Horton's locations! By the way if you are feeling festive go to your local Timmies and check out the Canada Day donuts! They have white frosting and red sprinkles shaped like maple leaves!


In honor of Canada Day I will be showcasing the Royal Canadian Mint in Winnipeg, MB!

This is where our coins are made, while the paper bills are made in an Ontario location. The Royal Canadian Mint also holds contracts for making coins for many other countries, including the USA. Due to the secret nature of their process (you wouldn't want tons of counterfeits around) no pictures can be taken of the machinery used in the coin making, however there is a guided tour you can take to watch how coins are made! Other highlights include you being able to hold a bar of solid gold! This is definitely an excellent way to spend Canada Day learning more about our fabulous country!