Posted on April 5, 2012 by Tia Lalani

Hear recent experiences in the Canadian north at the Camrose Public Library at 6 pm on April 11!

By Dan Jensen, Camrose Booster

Interdisciplinary students at the Augustana Campus will tell about their recent experiences in the Canadian north in a  presentation at the Camrose Public Library April 11.

The presentation will begin at 6 p.m.

“They will be sharing a little bit of the narratives they have been asked to write for the Explorations of the Canadian North class,” said Augustana professor Morten Asfeldt.

The students spent a week staying at the homestead of Dave and Kristen Olesen along the Hoar Frost River where it joins Great Slave Lake in the North West Territories and six days travelling by dogsled from the homestead to Cook Lake and back again.

“The dogsledding in itself was awesome,” said Ole Grevang, a visiting student from Augustana, who was joined on the trip by a visiting student from Norway, eight Canadian students and professor Asfeldt.

“We had Dave as our guide and his personality was a big part of the trip.”

“He has been up there for 25 to 27 years now and the country affects his views on many different things.”

Graham Rix, a fourth year student at Augustana, chose to be part of the expedition after hearing stories about it from his brother and sister, who had done it when they were attending Augustana.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that not everybody gets,” he said.

“I learned a lot from the family and about the different way they live.

“It isn’t necessarily simpler but it is more basic. We drew water from a hole in the ice, and travelled mostly by our own power through snow that sometimes was as high as our waists.”

The students left Augustana Feb. 18 and stayed a night at the friends of Asfeldt in Yellowknife before taking a one-hour flight to their destination 169 nautical miles away.

“We went to the museum at Yellowknife, saw a few sights and went to a local concert in the evening,” said Asfeldt.

Explorations of the Canadian North is a course offered by Augustana every second year to expose students to travel by dogsled and winter camping in -40°C temperatures, as well as get them to ask what it means to be a Canadian.

“We as Canadians describe our country as having great harsh winters and big empty spaces, yet most of us can’t wait for winter to be over and would rather be in Mexico when it gets cold,” said Asfeldt.

Students prepared for their adventure by reading books about the area’s history, including Pike’s Portage, a collection of stories edited by Asfeldt and Bob Henderson.

“The reading was done to give a sense of the place and who has been there before, and what their experience has been,” said Asfeldt. “I wanted them to read what these people wrote about why they were travelling by themselves in that part of the world, both in summer and winter, so that when they went they could see the landscape through a bunch of different lenses.”

The narratives on which the students are currently working helps students understand what they experienced, as well as understand themselves.

“Part of what we do at Augustana is help students come to a greater understanding of themselves and their place in the world,” said Asfeldt. “The knowledge they obtain about themselves through their time in the Canadian North can be transferred to other parts of their lives as well.”

While they were at the homestead, students spent an hour every morning writing their thoughts in a group journal, a copy of which has been preserved for them.

“They would write in it one day and read what they had written in it to the whole group the next,” said Asfeldt.

Grevang, who is a third year university student studying forestry and landscape at the University of Copenhagen, said it was  interesting to learn about those who passed through the area 100 years before, as well as the people who are living in the area now.

“We were able to make a deeper connection to the place just by reading their histories.”

On one of the days they were at the homestead, Roger Catling, a man Asfeldt had dubbed as The Last Wolf Hunter in Pike’s Portage, came by with a wolverine he had shot.

“He had lost a blanket from his sled when he was chasing the wolverine so by the time he got the animal to us it was frozen and he couldn’t show us how he skinned it,” said Asfeldt. “The plane that came to get us at the end had a freezer on it with a bunch of food for Roger.”

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