A Visit to Old Crow

Well, we’re back now safe and sound from our trip up North.  Sounds like we had better weather there than back home!  At one point in Dawson City I even found myself grumbling about the heat!

As part of our trip, we flew into the Vuntut Gwitch’in community of Old Crow.  North of the Arctic Circle, Old Crow is accessed in summer by plane only (or boat, if you have the skill).  It is the most northerly settlement in the Yukon.  The First Nation community still obtains a great deal of its sustenance from the land, and caribou, moose, muskrat and salmon feature prominently in their diet.  When we visited, it was a sad time for the people.  A father of three had passed away, drowned on the Porcupine River.  When we arrived and were told of this, we felt some trepidation.  Here we were, in a strange little town huddled on the edge of a muddy, swollen river with no way in or out except the plane that had just taken off.  But we didn’t have to worry as the people took very good care of us.  We were welcomed into the fold and invited to the funeral and the feast held afterword.  The whole community takes part in the grieving and all town offices — and even the store — were shut down.  The funeral was very sad; we waited  respectfully outside the little log church with a handful of other villagers as not everyone could fit inside.  The feast was held in the gymnasium of a modern school and had us all alternately tearing up or laughing as kind words were said about the deceased.  I sampled all the offerings at the big buffet table including moose, salmon and caribou intestines.  My favourite was the caribou heart.  The recipe for Stuffed Caribou Heart on the town’s website looks pretty good….

By the end of the few days of our stay in Old Crow, quite a few people would come up to us and ask if we were “that couple from Alberta”.  Word travels quickly.  Especially when we must have been the only two people walking:  everyone else flew by on quads or the odd truck.  Whenever we said we were from Cochrane, the listener would smile and say, “George Fox!”  I had to ask Darwin who this Fox guy was.  (Contemporary country music is not my forte, apparently.) We were charmed by the deadpan humour and sprightly fiddle music of Allan Benjamin, an artist of Old Crow.  Allan is also an athlete; when the Olympic Torch went through Old Crow in 2009, Alan was a proud Torch bearer.

The area had received a great deal of rain in the last little while so the streets were pretty wet.  Young children played in the small lakes by their homes.  The climate might be changing up there, the people think.  Part of the scrubby slope of Old Crow Mountain behind the community had slumped in a big mud slide as the permafrost melted.  If it is warming up in the northern Yukon, I wonder how communities like Old Crow will survive in such a fragile ecosystem.


~ by Samantha on August 22, 2010.

8 Responses to “A Visit to Old Crow”

  1. It’s sounds like a very interesting experience, never had caribou heart or caribou intestines but it’s nice that you were open minded to trying it. Great story as well 🙂

  2. […] community. Samantha has a description of the events that happened to us there on her blog – check it out for more info. I first noticed the sign above in Old Crow but later we saw in various spots around […]

  3. Great story Sam. I had to laugh when you said you didn’t know who George Fox is. Perhaps you haven’t wandered over to George Fox Trail in Cochrane yet… 🙂
    (South Side of the river by a church whose name escapes me. )

    It would be interesting to see what Old Crow looks like in the dead of winter.

  4. Hi Sam

    Great description, makes one feel apart of the community. So is that Muskrat or did you mean Muskox I wonder, probably have to catch a lot of Muskrats to feed the community.


  5. No, Leslie, that would be muskrat apparently. I was told that it is a big staple along with caribou! I didn’t get to sample that one though.

  6. Very interesting story! Reminds me of the time I spent in Gjoa Haven, NWT. The people all care for one another and look out for each other. People up there are different for sure…they must have their own stresses or worries but one thing I remember was the absolute lack of stress up there stressed me out and I couldn’t take it. Do you think it is a life style you and Darwin would like or do you fancy the traffic and fast pace?

  7. Hi Kevin,

    I don’t think we are fast-paced kinda people! We aren’t usually up on the latest tech gadgets and still wear clothes from Mountain Equipment Co-op circa 1980 (you know, the teal and purple variety). But it is a different lifestyle up there!

    Craig: Yeah I had heard of George Fox Trail, but had no clue who it was. I live off Quigley Drive–now that would be an interesting tidbit to find out who the Drive is named after!

  8. What a wonderful insight you’ve given us into this remote northern community. I’m sure it was a sad, yet memorable event. Thanks for sharing.
    Glad you made it home safe.

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