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~Building our Economic Roadmap~

March 19, 20, 21 LAXGALTS’AP COMMUNITY CENTRE, NASS VALLEY Participate in a great opportunity — hear about our Nation’s vision for economic development from Nisg-a’a leaders. Interact with business and industry experts.

Keynote presentations & discussions will focus on:

Tradeshow highlights:

› Economic development and capacity-building opportunities

› Highlighting key Nisg-a’a Nation projects and programs

Nass Valley/Nisg-a’a businesses, entrepreneurs, and artisan booths.

› Tourism and mining industry

› Funding source experts in small business and community development

And lots of draw prizes!

› Supporting local entrepreneurs

› Developing synergies among like-minded forum attendees

› Paths to reducing unemployment

ww w.n i s ga aop e nf orb u sine s 2 March/April 2018


Find the in the cover photo for your chance to win an art print by Kostan Legace at Coastal Fusion Art! Email with your best guess. Correct entries will be entered into a draw & the winner announced May 1.

COASTAL FUSION ART (250) 600-4080 :: CFA Gallery+Store #23 Cowbay Road, Prince Rupert

ON THE COVER Everything is temporary. An old car slowly succumbs to nature, near the Skeena River ghost town of Dorreen. Photo by Matt J. Simmons.

LAST ISSUE The N was hidden on the tree just right of centre. Thanks to everyone who entered the contest and congrats to Angelia Harris Gray from Telkwa, who won the books!

Legalities and limitations Copyright Š 2018. All rights reserved. No part of Northword Magazine, in print or electronic form, may be reproduced or incorporated into any information retrieval systems without written permission of the publisher. Information about events, products or services provided is not necessarily complete. The publisher is not responsible in whole or in part for any errors or omissions.The views expressed herein are those of the writers and advertisers, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the publisher, staff or management. Northword assumes no liability for improper or negligent business practices by advertisers, nor for any claims or representations contained anywhere in this magazine. Northword reserves the right to cancel or refuse advertising at the publisher’s discretion. In no event shall unsolicited material subject this publication to any claim or fees. Northword welcomes submissions but accepts no responsibility for unsolicited materials. Copyright in letter and other materials sent to the publisher and accepted for publication remains with the author, but the publisher and its licensees may freely reproduce them in print, electronic and other forms. Please refer to for contribution guidelines.

March/April 2018


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March/April 2018


Making a Difference for Patients in the North For 25 years the Spirit of the North Healthcare Foundation has been helping to bring the best of care closer to home for patients in the referral area of the University Hospital of Northern British Columbia. Your gift will change how healthcare is delivered. Your gift will provide better outcomes for patients in the north. Your gift will stay in the communities where you live, work and play. That’s our promise. Ways to Give - Providing a one time gift - Becoming a Sustaining Supporter - Giving in memory of a loved one - Planning for an end of life gift - Leaving a legacy


Celebrating 25 Years of Caring in Northern BC

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9 EDITOR’S NOTE FIRSTWORDS 11 Haida Gwaii: The Board Game 13 Coal in the Water 31 TRAIL MAP Onion Lake Ski Trails BACKWORDS

33 34 35 35

George Saunders Size Doesn't Matter Suuns Björk LAST WORD

39 Penguin, by Patrick Williston

FEATURES 15 Revolving Doors What happens when you come to a place temporarily and never leave? Or when you leave everything behind and venture out to northern BC for a job, but it doesn’t pan out? As our economy becomes increasingly reliant on transient workers, Dan Mesec investigates the temporary world in our half of the province. by Dan Mesec

19 Stealing Time For photographer Talon Gillis, setting up shop in the snowy backcountry was a way of taking time for himself, escaping the trappings of the connected world, and, maybe best of all, spending time with his canine pal Wally. photos by Talon Gillis, words by Matt J. Simmons

27 Passing Through Every year, travellers pass through northern BC, on adventures, road trips, or en route to some distant destination. They have stories. With help from a local legend in Prince George, writer Jo Boxwell shares some of the best. by Jo Boxwell, with illustrations by Facundo Gastiazoro

March/April 2018


northword magazine

MAIN OFFICE | Smithers 1412 Freeland Ave. Smithers, BC, V0J 2N4 t: 250.847.4600 | w. | e.

Matt J. Simmons



Sandra Smith

CONTRIBUTORS Jo Boxwell, Facundo Gastiazoro, Talon Gillis, Morgan Hite, Travis Hoornenborg, Amanda Follett Hosgood, Dan Mesec, Pete Moore, Jonathan Taggart, Chris Wheeler, Patrick Williston

Amanda Follett Hosgood

DISTRIBUTORS Ainsley Brown, Frances Riley, Richard Haley, Jen Harvey

National Advertising

Contributing Editor

Morgan Hite has lived in Smithers for 20 years, makes maps, goes hiking, gets lost, writes articles, reads things and dreams about travel.

Jo Boxwell is a freelance writer and media

specialist based in Prince George. She writes fiction and creative nonfiction, and is frequently interrupted by a squealing toddler, a ball-obsessed dog, and a surprisingly destructive cat.

Patrick Williston lives in Smithers in a mountainside home. When days are long, you will find him and his family gunkholing around the Chatham Sea in an old sailboat.

Facundo Gastiazoro spends his days in Smithers expressing his art by painting murals, creating animations, producing videos, illustrating concepts. His illustrations are featured in every issue of Northword.

Pete Moore was born and raised in Queen Charlotte, Haida Gwaii, and attended UVic’s journalism program. Now living back on the islands, he is an avid writer, radio host, musician, and general so-stoked dude.

Talon Gillis is an adventurer at heart with a strong passion for photographing people. A self-taught photographer originally from Prince Rupert, he now lives in Terrace.

Dan Mesec has called the Bulkley Valley home for seven years and as a journalist has covered everything from Tahltan blockades to wild salmon runs on Lake Babine.

8 March/April 2018

ADVERTISING SALES Sandra Smith, Matt J. Simmons, DISTRIBUTION We distribute 10,000 copies six times a year to over 300 locations in 33 communities across northern BC, reaching close to 30,000 readers. To request copies at your retail/public location, send an email to SUBSCRIPTION To receive Northword Magazine in your mailbox, or to give it away to a friend, please complete the subscription process on our website or give us a call. Subscriptions make great gifts! CONTRIBUTIONS We’re always happy to hear from new writers and photographers who have a unique perspective and a northern story to tell. Have a look at our submissions guidelines on our website, or send an email to and we'll send you a copy. ONLINE Find articles past and present, photos, audio, and more at and check us out on Facebook & Instagram. THANKS Special thanks to Travis Hoornenborg, for lending a hand to capture the self-portrait on page 25 and to Finlay, for again helping to hide the “N”. A QUICK NOTE Some of you might be wondering about the little glossy magazine that hit the streets in early February. Here’s the scoop: that is a once-a-year edition, a special side project. It’s a way for us to showcase some extremely talented individuals and play with a different format. We will continue to publish in the regular format, as well as feature an annual at the beginning of every year.


My socks have a short

lifespan. I’m so used to pulling on a pair in the morning, only to find huge holes in the heel or toe that often I just wear them anyway. Occasionally, some of the better pairs are given an extended lifes, washed and converted into wrist bands or weird half-glove things my kids incorporate into play, or wear just because. Wool, cotton, blended—they all become holey (holy?) in the end. The feeling I get pulling on a fresh pair of high-calibre socks is both deeply satisfying and strangely sad. Because those socks only serve to reinforce the idea that nothing lasts. It’s like they look up at me and say, “You too are only here for a short time.” My wool socks talk like a 19th century playwright, of course. The colourful cotton ones are a bit more direct: “You’re gonna die.” Technically, everything is temporary, so there’s no point in getting hung up on it. We could get really expansive here and talk about tectonic plates and geological history, or go down the rabbit hole of discussing religion and beliefs about the idea of eternity, but I have a better idea. Half a word, one number: Expo 86. In 1986, Vancouver hosted a world’s fair. This was a pretty big deal. Setting up shop on 170 acres of the shores of False Creek, the exposition’s theme was “World in Motion – World in Touch”. Expo 86 imagined a future where transportation and communication advancements created a brighter tomorrow. There was a monorail, a gondola, an early prototype of the Japanese high-speed train, the slightly odd “people mover”, and the newly-built Skytrain. One exhibit that sticks in my mind is this odd, undulating road that started submerged in the harbour and ended high in the air, pointing straight up. On it were vehicles of all types: cars, trucks, bicycles, canoes, planes, etc. The full gamut of transportation, land, sea, and air, up to that point. Everything was painted a monochromatic gray and the whole thing appeared—to my eyes anyway—like one cohesive structure. It was huge, solid, permanent.

The whole spectacle of Expo 86 was. When you have to walk under a monorail to pick up a souvenir pin or an Expo Ernie toy, it’s easy to think that everything around you is here for the long haul. Sure, I was only a kid and probably didn’t have any concept of the idea of impermanence, or even that this crazy thing I was lucky enough to check out wasn’t something that happened all the time. Still, there’s something about the way we view the world that encourages us to see human endeavour as lasting. Maybe it’s because we can create things that are less temporary than ourselves. There’s a sliding scale, but everything gets the same treatment in the end. Some things from the six-month exposition are still around these days: Science World, BC Place, the Skytrain. There’s even a northern BC connection: a resort between Terrace and Kitimat bought Expo 86’s “UFO H20” waterpark. But most of it—including the highway installation that seemed to a younger me to be so permanent—is long gone. That’s how it goes. When you witness impermanence, the experience can be unsettling. I’ve been to a lot of funerals. Nothing brings home the idea quite like the passing of a loved one. But we all know life is temporary. The real strangeness I’ve felt has happened in other places. Between Prince Rupert and the Skeena are a couple of sections of Highway 16 that were re-routed a few decades ago. I stumbled on an old section in the bush and could barely recognize it as a road. Reclaimed by the steady growth of the surrounding forest, buckled and cracked by weather. The realization I was standing on an old road felt oddly scary, like I was suddenly starring in some post-apocalyptic dystopian future film. But it’s not a big deal. None of it is. Everything is temporary. And after all, I scoff at my socks, I’ll be here longer than you. — Matt J. Simmons

March/April 2018


10 March/April 2018

photo: contributed

p h o t o : c o l i n ro s e

The seemingly-permanent sprawling spectacle that was Expo 86 occupied 170 acres of Vancouver real estate.



Incorporating Haida cultural history, Nang K’uulas develops a new strategy game

photo: contributed

p h o t o : c o l i n ro s e

Navigating turbulent seas

in search of fish; warring with neighbouring families and villages; displaying your wealth and power through totem poles and potlatches. These are just a few elements of everyday life for the pre-contact Haida people, and now the inspiration for a Haida Gwaii strategy board game. Nang K’uulas, or Patrick Shannon, developed the first version of his Haida Gwaii game during while staying on T’aanuu, a Haida village site in Gwaii Haanas, as part of the Haida Gwaii Watchmen program. Watchmen spend months at a time in the park, where there is little connection to the outside world other than the people who come to visit. “Being immersed in a place that your family once lived and being surrounded by the energy of all those that came before, truly rooted me for the first time in my life,” says Shannon. Without the distractions of internet, TV, or cell service, Shannon spent much of his time delving into the cabin’s library, learning more about the history, stories, and the many villages that once dotted every shoreline of Haida Gwaii. This newly-gained knowledge inspired Shannon’s creative side. “By sunset, in my sketchbook, I had the beginnings of a board game.” With little to work with by way of materials, Shannon gathered up what he could find around the cabin to develop a first edition. A single pencil, an

empty cereal box, a repurposed deck of cards, a stack of leftover pamphlets from 2013’s legacy pole raising, and rocks were used for the original game pieces. “On several occasions, I had to barter with visitors for more supplies,” says Shannon. “It made me feel very old school Haida.” Once construction was complete, Shannon began beta testing with his fellow Watchman Nick Gladstone. “I knew that if he got bored, then I better make the


game better,” says Shannon. Through these early trials, the game evolved into a fully-fledged Haida Gwaii strategy game. The game, called by its working title, “The Village People,” is built around the traditional practices and ways of life of the Haida people, and uses a board directly inspired by Haida Gwaii’s geography and waterways. Players begin the game as a Haida family in a time before contact, and start with a randomly


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“On several occasions, I had to barter with visitors for more supplies. It made me feel very old school Haida.”

Patrick Shannon (right) started developing the game while working in Gwaii Hanaas as one of the Haida Watchmen.

selected village. The goal of the game is to become the most respected family by trading, expanding your villages, building longhouses and totem poles, gathering resources, warring, and potlatching. It’s been two years since Shannon sketched out the original prototype at T’aanuu, and in that time it has been played over 25 times. “Each time the game has been played, it’s evolved,” says Shannon. “Input from other players, unexpected scenarios, and donated game

pieces have shaped it into something that is just so cool to play, and it gets better each time.” As the game evolved, Shannon has explored its potential as a teaching tool for schools and the general public alike. With hopes to one day develop the game in partnership with Haida Gwaii language authorities, the game could be a beginner’s gateway to the Haida language. “I would also like to provide information on historic villages, highlighting the clans and history of

each place,” he says. “The Village People” will continue to be tested until the mechanics are fully worked out, and then Shannon is planning to self-finance and produce a limited run of copies to go to schools, and be made available for purchase. “I just want to complete it and see how the response is from the community,” says Shannon. “Making sure that it’s respectful and supported would be vital if I were to ever go larger with it, but the potential is there.” — Pete Moore


Q ua l i t y



Community SuCCeSS.

L O C AT E D I N S M I T H E R S & S E R V I N G T H E R E G I O N • 2 5 0 . 8 4 7 . 4 3 2 5 • W W W. E D M I S O N M E H R . C A

12 March/April 2018

photos: brain huntington, SWCC


Northword will be following this project as it progresses; check in on our website, or if you have any questions or want to get in touch, you can reach out to Shannon at



CN spill leaves water quality questions in Hazelton

photos: brain huntington, SWCC

Ian Johnston raised

his family on Mission Creek, spending summers swimming and fishing in its waters. He drinks from a well set 100 metres back from its banks and, for more than two decades, he’s worked with a volunteer group to build up its salmon stocks. When a train derailed about a kilometre upstream of his South Hazelton home shortly after 7 a.m. on Jan. 19, spilling coal into the creek, he was one of the first on scene. “You could see there were multiple coal cars in the creek,” Johnston says, disputing CN Rail’s initial statement was that no coal had landed in the water. By the following day, trains were running again. But by press time in late February, piles of coal remained near the tracks, less than 50 metres from the creek and slowly leaching into the earth. “I think about having kids and the rule that you make a mess, you clean it up,” Johnston says. “It’s still a mess.” What that mess means for salmon stocks and water quality in Mission Creek remains unclear. February’s record-breaking snowfall was hampering cleanup efforts and making it impossible to know the full extent of the damage. It will likely be years before its effects are fully understood. According to Brenda Donas, a retired community advisor with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), if approached properly, the incident offers an opportunity to learn more about the effects of coal in salmonspawning streams and to improve spill-response plans. Both Johnston and Donas have been involved with the Chicago Creek Environmental Enhancement Society since the early 1990s, when there were less than 20 coho in Mission Creek. The society started a hatchery program and, in 1994, installed a fence to count returning fish. “We were getting between 200 and 400 coho adult coming back to spawn every year,” Donas says, at which point focus shifted to habitat reconstruction. “You can have fish coming back, but if there’s nowhere for them to spawn, you’re not going to make any more fish.” In 2015, the creek saw a whopping 1,800 returning coho. This fall marks the end of that three-year lifecycle and could reveal whether those numbers can be sustained. But how the coal spill will affect the society’s work has yet to be determined and may take many years—or at least another three-year cycle—to fully appreciate. Bioaccumulation, or the compounding of heavy metals up the food chain, is the biggest concern. Selenium and cadmium, which are commonly found in coal, can cause spinal deformities, lower growth rates, and reduced reproductive rates in salmon, Donas says. The society is requesting ongoing water-quality monitoring to test bioaccumulation of heavy metals in insects and salmon fry for three coho lifecycles, or roughly a decade. If increases are detected, “we have a problem on our hands,” Donas says. “I fish at the mouth of Mission Creek all the time. I’m eating that stuff.”

March/April 2018



Sherry Wright with the Wilps Nikate’en house group also arrived at the site shortly after 8 a.m. on the day of the spill. For the month that followed, she visited every day, working alongside fellow Gitxsan who had been hired to help with cleanup. “All we can do is sit there and witness and speak to the work that’s being done or not being done,” she says. While the creek bed was scraped clean by excavators within days of the spill and screens were put in place to strain coal sediment from the creek water, she is concerned about the remaining coal. “I can tell you, the coal has not been removed,” she says. By late February, CN said it had cleaned up roughly 30 percent of the spilled coal and didn’t have an answer as to when the rest would be removed. Kate Fenske, media relations with CN, said track issues had been ruled out as a cause of the derailment and the company was looking into equipment failure. She added that further monitoring and restoration work would take place in the spring. With regard to whether the water is safe for downstream residents, Northern Health Authority’s public health protection team said in an email it

believes “there is no significant threat to drinking water from this event, based on the materials involved and our review of the water quality testing results and trends.” According to David Karn with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, water quality monitoring began the day of the derailment and was ongoing, with a more comprehensive sediment collection planned once ice is off the creek. “So far, from the results we’ve seen to date, recreational use this summer is not a concern. We will have a better picture when the remainder of the sample results come in,” Karn says. “The impact risks to insects or salmon fry will be assessed when the remaining sampling results are received and could potentially be a part of the long-term monitoring plan.” But while residents wait to see what long-term impacts come from the derailment, there’s agreement that the crash—with its easily accessed location near Highway 16—presents an opportunity for CN to work with the community and improve its public image. “If they were a good environmental corporate citizen, this is an opportunity to put something in place to learn,” Donas says. “We’re just trying for a win-win.” — Amanda Follett Hosgood


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Water samples from upstream and downstream of the site clearly show contamination.

14 March/April 2018

photo: contributed

UNBC Prince Rupert Campus

photo: jonathan taggart

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revolving doors

photo: jonathan taggart

photo: contributed

by Dan Mesec


t’s early morning in the Valley; the sun peeks over the eastern mountains. Mounds of snow around town are slowly starting to melt, and the oncemassive accumulation on the roof is now only a few inches thick. Today you can hear the birds chirp and the drip, drip, drip of melting snow, signalling the beginning of another annual transformation. The Northwest is a cyclical place, both naturally and, in some ways, economically. As the lunar New Year celebrations come to an end, the natural cycle begins again with the arrival of the first eulachon to the Nass River. Soon they’ll be running the Skeena, followed by spring salmon. Bears emerging from winter slumber aren’t far behind. The squawks of geese and high-altitude cranes will be heard overhead, as life returns to the forests and rivers with yet another season bearing down.

This time of year signals another transition, one of the labour force. Lift operators and ski guides prepare to move on and tree planters and fishing guides prepare to move in. Seasonal workers have become a staple in our modern economy and the Northwest sees a hell of a lot of them—the proverbial transient worker. A short-lived phenomenon, transient workers consider themselves to be part of what’s known as the “gig economy”. They currently account for one third of Canada’s labour force and in places like northern BC, we rely on many of them to keep our businesses af loat. This precarious segment of the economy is growing, and although many transients have hopes of landing a more traditional lifetime job, the reality is that plenty continue to move from one place to the next for work, from one gig to another.

March/April 2018


16 March/April 2018

photo: jonathan taggart

photo: jonathan taggart

“I didn’t expect this when I decided to be a journalist. I’m reporting on homelessness and precarious housing and even I’m one of these people experiencing that here.”

Next stop unknown Last summer, Sydney Mitchell decided to make a change in her life. “Being in my hometown was kind of stressful,” she says. “After I graduated I had a decision to make: either stay in my hometown or see where life takes me.” Mitchell had only been in the work force less than two years before she made the move to Smithers from Ontario last summer to work as a forestry technician, quickly falling in love with the landscape that drew her to the West. But when the snow started to f ly and the forestry company she works for laid her off for the winter, Mitchell decided to take a job with Hudson Bay Mountain Resort as an administrative assistant. “You have to work with it,” she says. “I’m really glad there’s a ski hill here because it gives foresters and seasonal workers that opportunity.” Mitchell is just one of a growing number of millennials that make up the majority of the gig economy. Although she would like to have long-term stability in her career, she admits that might not be possible, at least at this stage. “It does bring up some anxiety for me, wanting to know where my next contract is,” Mitchell says. “With forestry work, it’s all contracts and they need to have the work before they give it out. That’s the kind of instability there is in forestry.” She says she’s in a bit of a waiting game during the winter, not knowing if there will be enough work in the coming season to be hired back as a forester. Mitchell says it’s not feasible for her to stay in Smithers if there’s no work in the summer. “I always have the option to go home, if BC doesn’t work,” Mitchell says. “But I want to make it work here and get my RPF. But to be completely honest it’s very stressful, working in a job that you don’t know where your next six to eight months is going to be. And once this job is up, I don’t know where I’ll go.” The revolving door In the media world, rural communities are hotbeds for green journalists. There seems to be a never ending revolving door of young journalists trying to make it in a profession that’s been through some turbulent times lately. Every few

months we see a new face in the paper or hear an unfamiliar voice on the radio. For Enica Benedikt making the transition into news journalism was no small task, especially as it meant she’d have to venture 5,000 kilometres across the country. “I’m from Toronto and I applied for a broadcasting job in Prince George, but an opportunity came up here and they offered me a position in Smithers,” Benedikt says. “I had never heard of this place or been to BC, so I said sure.” When she first arrived, Benedikt wasn’t having much luck finding a rental and ended up sleeping on a couch for a couple months before getting settled. It’s an added stress, not having your own space as you begin a new job in a strange place. Benedikt is trying to make it work. “This was completely new to me; I was actually shocked trying to find somewhere to rent,” she says. “Even the place I did find, which is very nice, is only for two months because [the landlord] already has someone else planned to come in the Spring.” The job that brought her didn’t end up working out. She’s now looking elsewhere for work and thinks her stay in Smithers will be relatively short. “I’m already looking at other options in other cities just for work,” Benedikt says. “I didn’t expect this when I decided to be a journalist. I’m reporting on homelessness and precarious housing and even I’m one of these people experiencing that here. “I think planting yourself helps you mentally and professionally,” she continues. “I think you need to feel like you have a home, a place you can regroup. So this has definitely been challenging.” Although Benedikt admits to anxiety not knowing where the next paycheque is coming from, or where she’ll hang her hat in the next few months, she’s determined to make a go of it if she can. “I guess ultimately you could always go home if necessary, I just don’t want that as an option,” Benedikt says. “If you have a dream and this is just how it is, then you’re creating something on your own. I really want to try and keep this going. There is so much to see and learn about yourself. I’m in it for the long-haul.”

March/April 2018


18 March/April 2018

fact that some of their employees have moved to the islands full-time, it’s still a challenge to retain seasoned guides simply because the act of seasonal work is not appealing to everyone. “In terms of employee retention, I think the biggest challenge is simply the lure of full-time positions elsewhere,” Pattison says. “Most of our staff who leave do so because they want to take a year-round position somewhere else, usually off-island. We’ve built some really successful relationships with employees who prefer seasonal work and have ended up working many seasons for us, either working the winter season in some other aspect of the tourism industry, or just travelling and hanging out in the winter.” As seasonal and temporary employment continues to grow in Canada’s shifting economy, the best approach to finding satisfying work seems to be adaptability. “I think to have a sustainable living here it helps to be willing to do a wide variety of jobs,” Pattison says. “When we first started running Moresby Explorers we took random jobs in the winter months to help cover costs. Now, as tourism on the islands grows, we’re lucky enough to be able to sustain ourselves year-round from our business.” As in all small communities, it pays to work together and in Pattison’s case that means helping out your neighbours to ensure a sustainable economic future for all. “I think when running a business in a small, remote community it’s really important to consider how your business is intertwined with the rest of the community. Suggesting that our clients spend an extra day in a local B&B and eat at the local restaurant can help those businesses as well. So I think part of sustaining our own livelihood is doing our part to make sure the entire community is sustainable.”

photo: chris wheeler

Home sweet home Hundreds of stories in the Northwest follow a similar trajectory. We come for work and some of us stay a short while and move on, while others remain indefinitely. This place has a tendency to grab hold and never let go. For Laura Pattison that’s exactly what happened. Raised on Haida Gwaii, Pattison is co-owner of Moresby Explorers, a guideoutfitting company in Sandspit. She’s explored many other locations to live and work over the years, but when the opportunity came up to have fulfilling, longterm work near home, she and her partner Heron knew it was the right decision to stay on-island. “For both of us,” Pattison says, “our decision to remain on Haida Gwaii was inf luenced by the work we were able to find here as well as other factors. It was never a hard and fast decision to stay, and we’ve both tried out living in other places at various times in our lives. But I think for both of us Haida Gwaii has always been high on our list of favourite places in the world, and since we were able to find satisfying jobs here, it made sense to stay.” For outdoor enthusiasts, Moresby Explorers operates in one of the most beautiful places in the world. It’s a guide-outfitter’s dream, exploring the far reaches of BC’s scenic archipelago. But finding long-term employees continues to be a major challenge for Pattison. “We would ideally like to hire a lot of our staff from on-island, as those folks are likely to have a good base of knowledge to lead tours in the area and are more likely to be long-term employees,” says Pattison. “However, it’s actually not that common to find the staff we need on-island, due to having a small population to draw from. Most people are looking for year-round work, or positions that pay better than tourism. So we end up hiring a lot of staff from other places.” Moresby Explorers usually employ about 12 people in the summer and keep just two or three year-round—including the owners themselves. Despite the

stealing time

photo: chris wheeler

photos by Talon Gillis

March/April 2018



ew people call a tent home year-round. Which means for most of us time in tents is precious. Stolen moments. Confining one’s existence into a tiny space forces a minimalist approach to life. Chances are, if you’re in a tent somewhere in northern BC, what’s waiting outside the f lap is pretty incredible. This past winter, photographer Talon Gillis took a tent, some gear, and his dog Wally and went out into the mountains. Setting up camp in classic Coast Mountains backcountry, the idea was simple: by being in the mountains already, Talon would have more time to explore terrain on his snowboard. He’s no stranger to living out of a tent for a time. “I always set up in the most amazing places,” he says. “On the beaches, surfing; on glaciers in Alaska; on the rivers, fishing; or in the local backcountry.” But it’s not just

20 March/April 2018

access to recreation that motivates him. “I value the simple living it offers me,” he explains. Away from computer and internet, he’s not only able to focus on the simple pleasures of life—cooking, reading, chopping wood— he’s also in a better position to shoot photos, out in the landscape at both sunrise and sunset. And the dog? They adventure together. “I feel like I’m not alone out doing these excursions,” he says. Wally runs right beside him as he snowboards some challenging terrain. “I’m just amazed at how well he adapts.” Inside, it’s a similar story. “He knows his place in the tent,” says Talon. “We’ve worked out a system of how to shuff le around each other. He has his own spot to sleep next to the fire and every morning comes over for a short cuddle to wake me up.” He laughs and adds: “He only stole food once.” —Matt J. Simmons


March/April 2018


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March/April 2018


RUN Kitimat 5 or 10 km Run April 29, 2018 10:00am to 12:30pm

Smithers Daffodil Dash Challenge April 29, 2018 12:00pm to 4:00pm

A family fun event supporting the Canadian Cancer Society Gather your friends, family and co-workers, create a team, dress in yellow and dash your petals off to raise awareness and funds for cancer research and support programs.

Register at

26 March/April 2018

Passing Through by Jo Boxwell illustrations by Facundo Gastiazoro

Yawning and leg stretching at the visitor centre. The city connects highways and breaks up a train route, but the distances are vast. Some travellers collect brochures and pile them in their car doors. Others invest in small mementos: a printed mug or a wooden Mr. PG. A few leave behind their stories.

March/April 2018


The Granola People They’re just passing through, the granola people, but they’d like to call a conservation officer about the bear cub in the back of their van. That’s what they’ve been feeding it—granola. It’s homemade; low in sugar. Oats are an excellent source of fibre. They’re very concerned about what the conservation officer will do with it, the bear cub. They’ll take the animal home with them if anyone even thinks about killing it. They spotted the largish black cub as they were heading west from McBride. It was preoccupied licking dead bugs off a vehicle that had been abandoned on the side of the highway. The couple pulled over and watched it for a while; twenty minutes or so. That was plenty of time, they figured, for the mother to come back if she was going to. The cub needed to be rescued, they decided, so the husband grabbed hold of it and shoved it into a big blue container they had in the van. They poked some holes in the lid and sealed it up. The husband and wife escort the conservation officer across the parking lot to their vehicle, ready to fight for the cub’s existence if they have to. They slide open the door. Inside are the couple’s four children and a large blue container. The kids have popped the lid off. They’re feeding the cub some more granola.

The Hitchhiker Boots and a backpack and torrential rain in the early fall. A young, clean shaven German is taking a break from his education to see Canada from truck cabs and roadsides. He’s been caught out by the weather; his progress abruptly stalled. It is illegal to hitch a ride by the jail, and it’s a long walk all the way up the hill in the heavy rain to catch a ride east. He hangs out at the visitor centre for a while, waiting for the weather to change. It doesn’t. He waits a bit longer. He gets chatting to the staff. The view beyond the windows looks almost black against the warm electric light. He’s offered a spare ticket to a Spruce Kings game. It’s the beginning of the season; the fans are excited. He really should experience Canada’s favourite sport. He gets talking to people in the arena. He winds up at a pub, and then a stag party, and he stays for another four days. Somewhere along the way, the rain stops.

The RVers Some Europeans pack light for their North American adventures. Others ship over their vehicles. Retired people who take road trips that stretch across the summer pull up in RVs with foreign plates and assorted stickers. The machines they import for their extended holidays are ancient, new, slender, and chunky. Some are built like tanks with massive tires and plated exteriors, as if their insides conceal a small arsenal instead of household items and pull-down beds. The German couple, mid-sixties, arrive in a skinny camper, stereotypically efficient, amazingly compact. Built for windy European roads. They don’t make vehicles like that in North America. That’s a problem, because the camper has broken down. Now they’re stuck here, waiting for parts to be shipped from Europe so they can get back on the road again. The Dutch couple pull up in an ancient truck with a camper on the back, towing their beloved quad and a little dog (also beloved). They want to drive the quad downtown. They don’t see why that would be a problem—it was fine in Alaska. They ask staff to call the RCMP for them, to double check. They’ll wait. He had a cancer scare; that’s why they’re taking the trip. While they’re here, they would very much like to shake the hands of veterans at the Legion. In Holland, they tend the graves of fallen Canadian W W II soldiers. The RCMP call back. It’s a definite no-go for the quad. They take their old truck to the Legion.

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The Deer Their hooves crunch the gravel between the railroad tracks, noses sniffing out grain that has fallen from uncovered train cars. An inhospitable environment compared to the surrounding forests, but the lure of convenient food is strong. A herd is holding up traffic on First Avenue. The railroad tracks misled the deer. The grain consumed, they find themselves ambushed by vehicles, noise, and concrete. Excited visitors snap photos as the RCMP try to clear them off the road.

The Panicking Relations An English couple come in. It’s their first time in Canada. They’re not looking for postcards or magnets or keychains, but their missing relatives. Their aunt and uncle were supposed to meet them in Smithers and they aren’t answering their cellphone. There are plenty of places to stop between Smithers and Prince George, plenty of places for the young English couple to inquire about their aunt and uncle and come up short, and instead hear stories of the tragic disappearances that have occurred along Highway 16, which they soon discover is also known as the Highway of Tears. By the time they reach Prince George, they’re stuck in a bad dream, in a strange country that gives them not hope, but a tiny glimpse into the pain of families who have had someone go missing on that same stretch of road. Visitor centre staff call hospitals and hotels; every one along the route. The RCMP are alerted. Then there’s a breakthrough; the aunt and uncle are tracked down to a Prince George motel, but they’ve already checked out. They are eventually located in 100 Mile House, heading home again, unaware they’d switched their cellphone off, or that their English relatives might be concerned.

The Campers A picturesque campsite. Trees nearby rustling in a light summer breeze. Calm day; quiet night. Morning panic. She wakes to discover caterpillars crawling in her hair. She f lees the tent, hitting her head and shaking her hair as she frantically tries to dislodge them. The aptly-named tent caterpillars have swarmed all over the outside of their lightweight shelter, and more than a few have found their way in. Her boyfriend finds it hilarious. She doesn’t, not even in the retelling. They would like to be relocated to a campsite without any caterpillars in the vicinity.

The Penniless Gold Panner An early snowfall catches the gold panner on a logging road north of the city. He’s a thirty-ish Albertan as eccentric as his hobby. He’d staked his claim and driven up there in a rusty truck with a makeshift camper stuck on the back. No winter gear; not even a pair of gloves. After the snow struck, a few snowmobilers came by and dug the man and his dog out. They brought him back to civilization. Now he’s preparing to head back up north and dig his truck out. The staff offer him a pair of mitts. He calls his parents in Alberta to send money so he can get back home.

These stories are based on accounts provided by Sherry McKay of the Prince George Visitor Centre, who has spent the past 14 years going out of her way to help people who are just passing through.

March/April 2018



Love Yourself

ONE DAY RETREAT IN HAZELTON 21st April Julie Chaplin & Rosie Williams invite you to

Commit to one day of self care Aerial Yoga Guided Relaxations Qi-Gong Creative Arts Deluxe Yin Session with Massage

Trainings & Events through spring include:

Tribal Fusion Dance, Thai Medicine Massage, Kids Yoga Teacher Training, Aerial Yoga, Mountain Biking Wellness

Meditation Catered Lunch from



Callfor Artists


Artists may submit new works to be featured in this artistic celebration of Skeena salmon. All mediums are welcome. submissions & requests for information:

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Terrace Art Gallery August 2018


Onion Lake Ski Trails words & map by Morgan Hite

In a sense, the Onion Lake cross-country ski trails date back to 1976, when the Kitimat Cross Country Ski Club started constructing its first trail at the Hirsch Creek golf course. But in the late 1980s it became clear that this area didn’t get enough snow, and a new location was sought near Onion Lake, in the (relatively) elevated region halfway between Kitimat and Terrace. Today the club has grown into the Snow Valley Nordic Ski Club, and at Onion Lake they maintain over 35 km of groomed trails. Trails vary from the kid-sized T (“Troll”) loop next to the stadium to the 13 km M (“Moose Highway”) that club president Liz Thorne says is her favourite. It takes you on a long run out to the west through nice hills with views. The trails are located on a plateau just south of Lakelse Lake. Turn west off Highway 37 when you are 23 km from the Terrace airport or about 30 km from Kitimat. There’s a sign (with a skier icon) on the highway. A parking area is a hundred metres down this side road. If you are not a member, you can buy your day-use pass at the ticket booth in the parking lot. With a Pisten Bully 200 for tracksetting, a warming hut, and toilets at the parking

lot, plus a rental program (skis, boots and poles!), Onion Lake offers everything you could need for a day of skiing. Each year, the club hosts several races and a women’s ski clinic. Five kilometres of the trails can be skied at night, under lights. Just press the big red button on the west side of the ticket booth to illuminate the trails for the next two hours. The newest trail in the network is the six km “Doggy Trail,” where canine companions are welcome. These pet-friendly trails are on the south side of the road, opposite the parking lots. If you are a member of another cross country ski club between Prince George and Prince Rupert, the Snow Valley Nordic Club charges $10 for a one-day pass ($12 otherwise). Annual passes are $140 but are cheaper if you buy before December 1st or after February 14th. Amazingly this entire operation is run and maintained by volunteers. Check their website at for the conditions and grooming report, the latest news, and the hours when the rental hut will be open. March/April 2018


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books george saunders Various, 1996 – Present

I first stumbled across American author George Saunders through one of his shortest short stories, a piece called A Lack of Order in the Floating Room. Odd and compelling and every word carefully chosen, the story propelled me to seek out more. Last year, there was much fanfare accompanying the release of Saunders’ debut novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, winner of the 2017 Man Booker Prize. I haven’t read it—yet. I want to explore his older works first, all of which are short story collections, each of which is critically acclaimed. Anyone able to earn recognition for writing short stories is worth reading, in my mind. I started with Tenth of December (2013). From the first page, I was captivated. Saunders’ writing is confident and full of oddities. Maybe it’s a bit cliché to say, but I’d describe his writing as fearless. He plays with

conventions and isn’t afraid to let his characters drive even the way the text unfolds. Italics, numbers, parentheses, shorthand: something new on every page. But the real strength of Saunders’ work is his ability to suck you into his strange snapshot worlds so completely that it’s impossible not to witness the humanity at the heart of his writing. Love, tenderness, confusion, our very personal reactions to the insanity of the modern world—all this is there for the taking. I’m on Pastoralia (2000) now and it’s just as bizarre and funny and engrossing. I may track down a copy of In Persuasion Nation (2006) next or tackle the hefty, award-winning novel. Whichever it is, I’m confident I will enjoy every word. — Matt J. Simmons March/April 2018



theatre chris williams Size Doesn’t Matter, 2018

The annual Valentino Cabaret, put on by the Tidal Elements Whole School Society, is Haida Gwaii’s yearly showcase of local talent, comedy, and performance. This year’s show, the 16th annual, ended with a seven-act play called Size Doesn’t Matter. The story follows Watermelon, a microscopic woman, and her lover Clipper Tanktop, a man cursed with a microscopic penis as a result of an encounter with an alien shrink ray. The play centres on the idea of finding love in impossible situations, and is characterized by a Monty Python-esque style of comedy tagged by creator Chris Williams as “theatre of the bizarre.” “Let’s create a situation that’s impossible, and then try to act as normally towards it as possible,” he says. “There’s a natural comedy that flows out of that.”

Only about 25 minutes long, the performance featured a small local cast including two voice actors, one as the microscopic Watermelon and a narrator. Despite Watermelon being the only character we couldn’t actually see, she was easily the most normal of the crew. Those performing on stage embodied the absurd, furthering the play’s place in the realm of the bizarre. The story interlaced numerous Haida Gwaii references and jokes throughout, keeping the comedy targeted to its local audience. To further create a tangible connection, the play incorporated moments of breaking the fourth wall. A passionate make-out session by two members of the audience is acknowledged by the cast; Plasticine, the son of Watermelon and Clipper, sends text messages from the stage to friends in the crowd. There is no second showing of Size Doesn’t Matter in the works, but Williams sees this as a bonus. The play exists as a one-off and exclusively as part of the 16th Valentino Cabaret. It is immortalized through the collective memory of those who were in attendance, and is merely a thing of wonder for those who could not be there to see it firsthand. — Pete Moore

backwords is sponsored by

Books, Coffee, Friends. “Northern BC’s Living Room”

Are we forgetting anything? Nope.

Prince George 1685 3rd Avenue 250-563-6637 • Quesnel 371 Reid Street 236-424-4444 34 March/April 2018


music suuns

music björk

Felt, Secretly Canadian, 2018

Utopia, One Little Indian, 2017

Montréal outfit, Suuns (pronounced “soons”) have been fusing genres for just over a decade now. Clearly influenced by their surroundings, Suuns’ music reflects the free and expressive contemporary art and music scene in the Québec city. Neither traditional rockers nor a strictly electronic act, their sound is characterized by a careful blend of programmed material (think synthesizers, drum machines, samples, etc.) and live instrumentation. This kind of synthesis between “traditional” instruments and electronics may not be all that uncommon these days, but Suuns breathes new life into the mix. They’ve also breathed some life into their career with Felt. The new record comes across more joyful than 2016’s Hold/Still. At times, Felt sounds like the band is just blasting out a tune live. Less polished, in a good way. Guitarist and singer Ben Shemie brings his vocals to the fore in a way he hasn’t done before, and it’s a refreshing departure from his moody background crooning of the past. But don’t expect easy listening throughout. Felt isn’t without noise, drone, and futuristic rhythms. The whole thing is steeped in a healthy dose of artsy weirdness.

Icelandic musician Björk is back. The 52-year-old singer and composer has collaborated with the likes of Sir David Attenborough and is known for appearing on stage wearing some of the craziest outfits this side of Lady Gaga. Always on the forefront of technology, she has plenty of “firsts” in the bag. Biophilia (2011) was released as an “app album” with each song linked to an interactive app. The music videos for her last album, Vulnicura, were a series of virtual reality films. Utopia is her tenth studio album and, in many ways, it’s one of her most accessible. She brings an orchestral sensibility to a style of music that is uniquely and defiantly her own. Harps, flutes, choral arrangements, and loon calls meet industrial electronica, all tied together with that voice. It defies classification. It’s just Björk. Lyrically, this album has a lot of love to share, but doesn’t shy away from big subjects, presenting instead a more complex version of paradise. On “Tabula Rasa” she sings to her children: “It is time for us women to rise and not just take it lying down / It is time: The world is listening / Oh, how I love you / Embarrassed to pass this mess over to you”. The world is indeed listening. — Matt J. Simmons

— Matt J. Simmons

Every home deserves a quality piano. For photos, stories, contests and more, check us out at or find us on Facebook & Instagram. We love to share your adventures, so be sure to tag us in your photos #northwordmagazine.

Acoustics Digitals Sheet Music 250-564-0481 • 102 - 575 Brunswick Street, Prince George

March/April 2018



Two Sisters Cafe Food for life

Organic, locally sourced, fresh & delicious. 3763 4th Avenue, Smithers 250-877-7708 Find us on instagram:

Chef Abhi’s

HornCraft Music

Classic Indian cuisine

Professional repairs, rentals, and sales of violins, brass, and woodwind instruments

Come join us! Experience the beautiful tastes and aromas of southern India at Chef Abhi’s, at the Lodge at Skeena Landing, open for lunch and dinner Tuesday to Sunday.

Visit our website for a listing of local music instructors. Contact us if you are an instructor anywhere in northern BC and would like to be listed on our site.

Located at The Lodge @ Skeena Landing, Thornhill 778.634.2999

3877 13th Avenue, Smithers 250.847.0318 .

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Skeena Landing

Experience the beauty of Prince Rupert’s waterfront. Our tastefully appointed guest rooms and warm hospitality of your hosts will make you feel at home.

Conveniently located minutes from Terrace, The Lodge is the perfect quiet getaway for any traveller. A few steps and you’re at the doors of great shops and an on-site restaurant. The recentlyrenovated Lodge ensures excellent comfort and a quality stay. Short-term serviced and executive apartments available. Visit our website for online reservations.

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The Lodge

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Skeena Landing, Thornhill, Terrace 250.638.0444


Twin Valley Inn Liquor Store Cold beer, cider, wine & spirits

Featuring the largest selection of BC craft beers in the Northwest. We regularly stock local & regional breweries and a variety of others from around the province. 3939 Highway 16, Smithers 250.847.3281

Nathan Cullen, MP

Roadhouse Smithers

Skeena-Bulkley Valley

Comfort food, well travelled

First elected in 2004, five-term Member of Parliament for Skeena–Bulkley Valley Nathan Cullen is a strong voice for the Northwest in Parliament, fighting for good jobs, a healthy environment, and fairness for First Nations.

Upscale casual restaurant serving internationally-inspired comfort food with a smile. A perfect place for a casual dinner or date night with delicious appetizers, mains & desserts. Great to just hang out for coffee or come in for fabulous cocktails, our well-appointed, BC-centric wine list, local beers on tap or our top-shelf whiskies & rums.

1-888-622-0212 . Find Nathan on Facebook @nathan.cullen1 on Twitter @nathancullen or

Open for brunch Sat & Sunday 9am - 2pm. 3711 Alfred Ave., Smithers Check for hours & more info. Find us on Facebook & Instagram



Wood Wizards

Vet to Pet Mobile Service

Using high performance, environmentallyfriendly cleaners & wood oils, we stain all wood exteriors—log homes, post & beam, siding, decks & railings. Rotten log replacement & structural repairs. 20+ years of experience. Servicing all of northern BC.

NEW LOCATION: 8 to 5 and Saturdays 11-5 at 1283 Main Street in Smithers (in the corner, by Louise’s Kitchen). If you need a fast answer, please call or text. Caring for your pets for 36 years.

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Mobile veterinary services


Community Futures Nadina

Growing communities–one idea at a time Serving Burns Lake, Granisle, Houston, Smithers, Telkwa, Topley and area. Office open by appointment in Smithers now at 3876 Broadway Ave. 250.845.2522 find us on facebook at CF Nadina

March/April 2018


Last Word


» » » » » »

She took my poem, a neatly printed island of words on milk sea, and carefully folded the page until it became a paper penguin, set it on the edge of the table and waited. After a moment, she gave it a gentle nudge, whereupon it waddled a few steps, paused, then flapped its little fin wings and lifted into the air. It circled once, then flew out through a narrow opening in the window. “Can you teach me how to do that?” I asked. “But you already know how,” she replied. — Patrick Williston

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Education unbound. » university credit » trades » fine arts » continuing education » workforce training » upgrading

March/April 2018














Photo Credit: Talon Gillis

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Northword Magazine - March/April 2018  
Northword Magazine - March/April 2018  

The Temporary Issue. Transient workers, travellers, and tents.