As I am now privileged in heading into my 69th year I find myself reflecting more on what was and hopes for continued positive improvements for my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I will need many more pages to cover my life-span but time and space will not permit this.
My late father John Maksagak came out of residential school and was told he was old enough to fend for himself and to begin working and planning his future.
He joined a group of other young men and learned how to care for and monitor a herd of reindeer brought in by the federal government of the day as our people the Inuvialuit were starving and dying off because our main staple the caribou were no longer in the immediate area. He later met my late mother Helen Momayaok Wingek and they married on February 23, 1950. As the saying goes the rest is history.
I was born on June 10, 1951 and from my earliest memories we lived in tents and log cabins as we traversed the MacKenzie River, the Beaufort Sea, Imakyok (Husky Lakes) and the Sandy Hills on the East Arm of the ‘big river’ looking after these reindeer.
From October to early April we travelled by dog-team or sled pulled by the deer. My dad lassoed a couple reindeer and tamed them into harnesses to pull a fair-sized sled and would use them for hauling fire wood from the interior for our main camp called Reindeer Station.
It was a simple life with everyone looking out for each other. If something happened with one of the herders we all pitched in to care for and comfort his family. If one of our mothers or grandmothers injured themselves while going about normal duties the younger women jumped in to fill-in while the injured were healing.
We young boys were taught early in drawing water from the river and cutting and splitting wood while our fathers were in the hills with the reindeer.
When these duties were done we children would grab a free toboggan and pull it up the path about two miles where the slaughter house was and we would slide down this path and right into the East Arm and do it all over again.
Then we would hear our mothers calling that soup and bannock were ready and we would come in for a hot meal finished off with a good cup of tea.