After spending 31 days canoeing on the Pipestone and Winisk Rivers, Sam Hunter reached Hudson Bay on June 25.
“I just wanted to see the ice and I went to go right to the edge of the saltwater,” the Weenusk First Nation member said.
Reaching the bay concluded the 1,500-kilometre journey Hunter began on May 23 when he first hit the water near Pickle Lake.
“I actually loved it,” Hunter said of reaching his homeland. “I’m always loving the coastline. We have so many wildlife. The amount of birds I saw in one hour (along the bay) was as much as I saw throughout the whole trip. It’s really different. So much wildlife.”
Hunter started the trip alongside his friend Kevin Vallieres and together they reached Wunnumin Lake after two weeks. Hunter said it was fascinating to see all the lakes surrounding the community.
“They were really wide with so many islands,” he said. “They weren’t that deep, about 10 feet
I guess. And I had actually studied the last Ice Age and most of the lakes around here were carved by the Ice Age and it’s really nice to see them. It was one of the highlights of my trip.”
Vallieres was forced to return home on June 7 after losing most of his gear and sustaining rib injuries, and so Hunter continued on solo. He made stops in Nibinamik First Nation (Summer Beaver) and Webequie First Nation.
“All the communities were really nice,” Hunter said. “I think all of them were expecting me or waiting for me to show up.”
Hunter received the biggest welcome when he reached Webequie.
“They had a big gathering and invited me to supper, and I don’t know how many people showed up,” he said. “They asked me to come up and everybody shook my hand, even the chief. It was really nice.”
Community members gave Hunter some money and a voucher to go shopping.
“It makes you feel like you want go back there,” Hunter said of community’s reception.
From Webequie, Hunter travelled for five nights, at one point spending a day in camp due to poor weather conditions. He travelled about 15 hours a day because of the amount of daylight.
“The sun would set around 11:30 p.m.,” he said. “There was hardly any night, just twilight and it was nice. I would camp at 11 at night.”
Travelling the Winisk River proved to be easier than the Pipestone.
“I thought there would be huge rapids but there weren’t,” he said. “The rapids on the Pipestone River were a lot bigger. But the river up here was better because it was getting wider and wider.”
Hunter, who packed little food, started eating more fish due to their abundance, though he also killed and ate some geese along the way.
“I did take some noodles,” he said. “There’s lots of fish in those lakes. You just drop your hook in there and they bite.”
Hunter arrived in his home community of Peawanuck and stayed overnight before leaving for Hudson Bay. And while he managed to avoid flipping his canoe throughout the whole trip, on his way back to the shore, he hit what he believes to be a log and tipped over, losing two motors and two rifles.
“After finishing the trip, it was kind of weird,” Hunter said, laughing.
Since completing the journey, Hunter has spent his time in Peawanuck. And though he is happy to be back home, he has been missing the sense of adventure.
“It feels like I have nothing to do. You get bored and I feel like I gotta go do something,” he said. “When I was out on the land, I didn’t feel that way. I always had the excitement of seeing something different or if something was going to show up in an hour or the next, or what kind of rapids I’m going to see. It was almost always exhilarating to see something.
Being in the community, it’s not like that. I feel like I’m always stuck in a rut.”
To quell the boredom, Hunter plans on doing another canoe trip, this time along the Sutton River located about 45 miles east of Peawanuck. He plans on starting at a site along Hawly Lake and make his way to the coast, which will take about eight days.
“I was born there and I’ve done it quite a few times but this time I’ll take a lot of pictures and take it all in,” he said.
Hunter also plans on taking youth out on a canoe trip to teach them about making camp and fires and how to cook traditional food.
“I think more and more kids in Peawanuck are starting to do just that, but I want to expose it to those at a younger age, like those in their early teens,” he said.
National Indigenous Peoples Day which takes place on June 21 and the wider National Indigenous History Month in June is a significant time for Indigenous...