by Chantelle Olson
Wide open spaces devoid of humanity, with only the foxes and lemmings for company – this is Canada’s north. It is also Professor Morten Asfeldt’s favorite place to be. Dogsleds, canoes, a good pair of boots and a camera are essential tools for exploring one of the most beautiful and wild regions within our nation’s borders. Last year, Morten was given the opportunity to experience a whole new north: in Norway. With plenty of family in Denmark and a love of cold and white places, the Scandinavian nation seemed the ideal place to spend a sabbatical, especially after Professor Asfeldt received a guest professorship for the 2008-2009 year at Telmark University College in the bustling metropolis of Bø, Norway, population 5000.
In addition to lecturing at the college, Morten participated in three extended outdoor trips with students and the other outdoor education faculty. “Canoeing, hiking, sailing…it was a riot,” he said with a grin, adding that he especially enjoyed the sailing, a novel experience. During the course of the year he also flew over to a conference in Wales with Professor Ingrid Urberg, where they presented a recent collaborative article outlining their unique pedagogical philosophy and experiences gained on their trips with Augustana students to Canada’s far north. “Wolves, Ptarmigan, and Lake Trout: Critical Elements of a Northern Canadian Place-Conscious Pedagogy” emphasizes the importance of first-hand experience to an understanding of Canada’s northern spaces. After the conference, Morten received an invitation to speak in Oslo, at the Norwegian Institute of Sport Science. A photographer of considerable skill, Morten was excited to include some of his pictures at both gatherings: “Why talk if you can show pictures AND talk?”
But a sabbatical is never all fun and games. Morten Asfeldt’s biggest project from last year was a book he edited of stories from Canada’s north. According to the publisher’s abstract, Pike’s Portage: Stories of a Distinguished Place tells the stories of Pike’s Portage, a trail at the edge of the Barrens in the Northwest Territories. “For years it was used as an access point by Native peoples and as a transition point by intrepid explorers and adventurers. In the early twentieth century it was a trapper’s right of passage. Today, in winter it carries hunters, and in summer only footprints of the most adventuresome canoe parties heading for the Thelon, Back, and Coppermine rivers. The stories of the people who have struggled over Pike’s Portage are many and varied.” These are the stories told in Prof. Asfeldt’s new book, which includes a chapter from Augustana’s own Dr. Ingrid Urberg. There will be book launches for Morten’s book in Toronto on February 5 and Yellowknife February 13, 2010.