Gathering census data from Yellowknife’s houseboat community would have been a lot easier had the lake not begun to melt. After driving out in early May to drop off the surveys, enumerators were stranded on land until the spring thaw cleared a path to the 30-home neighbourhood. Then they needed a boat.
When your route includes dirt roads and long highway stretches, waterways and snowy trails—one enumerator opted to cross-country ski—you’re bound to have some misadventures. Here’s a few from around the North.
The people you meet
“I was at one address and there was a man sitting in his garage, he had piles and piles of cash. He was just having a beer and a smoke and sitting there with piles of cash.
“So, I went up to talk to him and he was like, ‘Well since you’re here you may as well do the survey with me.’ And then after he says, ‘You’re probably wondering about the cash,’ and he tells me his wife just won bingo and it was $20,000.”
– Ashley Daw
Pets and other wild things
“One day I had to go up the Ingraham Trail [outside of Yellowknife] and me and my partner got lost—there was a road sign posted on a house that wasn’t actually the name of the road—and we ended up stopping at a farm and petting animals. That was kind of fun. There was a baby goat and it kept jumping up at me.
“So far on the job I’ve pet a goat, a ferret, dogs … lots of dogs.” – Cynthia Chan
“I got attacked by a dog! I go to this house and the garage door was open but there was no one in there and there was this big German Shepherd in a cage. He kept barking but I was like, ‘It’s okay, he’s in a cage.’
“So I went around to the front door and a woman answers—she’s whispering, she said there’s a young baby and she couldn’t talk—then as I’m leaving, I go around the corner and the dog’s out of the cage and he leaps at me. His claws dug into my leg—I think it was his claws, not his teeth, but it’s all a blur because it happened so fast—but he lunged on me and knocked me back. I almost fell but I caught myself. Then he was looping, just circling around me ready to go again.
“I was like, ‘Ma’am, your dog.’” – Ashley Daw
“It was a pretty regular occurrence to go into a house and they’d be gutting a caribou or pounding drymeat into powder to mix with bannock. Some of our agents were given fish, one of the agents came home with a massive trout and made a big trout dinner.
“I went into one house in Wemindji [on the coast of James Bay in northern Quebec], they were about to sit down to dinner and they invited me in for an awesome moose stew.” – Geoff Moore
Since you asked…
“I was in Schefferville [Quebec, near the border with Labrador], in one part just outside of town and a woman there let me in. She was really awesome, but she basically sat me down and just yelled at me for 45 minutes about all the terrible things happening to her community.
“She said, ‘I remember how my life was before you white people came here, it was so much better. You came here, built this mine and made us rely on you. You made us need money, need food you buy at the store and then you turn and leave and close down your mine and say you have to work for yourself now. You stole our way of life and then abandoned us.’
“So, I wrote out a big essay on the back of the census form because she said, ‘Tell them this.’
“I wrote a few of those big essays up there.” – Geoff Moore