Told by Harry Scipio
Translated and transcribed by Brian Webb
One time, I experienced a frightening event out on the bay. I fell through the ice. This happened during the fall way out in the bay.
The ice began to form and there was still some open water in the channels between islands. These were the places where we’d spot seals popping up to breathe. As we drove our dogsled, we saw a seal pop up. We stopped the dogteam. I went over to the edge of the ice and sat there waiting for the seal to surface again. When the seal appeared, I shot it.
I had shot the seal and the dogs were sitting where we had stopped. We had a canoe strapped on our sled. My companion watched and waited near by.
Some of the ice still wasn’t solid and at the edge, it was like floating patches that looked like plates. A patch was probably the size of a kitchen table. The patches of ice weren’t fused together and were all floating individually.
I hadn’t noticed that I had changed my stance. As soon as I felt myself falling, both my legs fell through the ice. I held my gun in one hand and held onto an iron rod on the other. My hand that held the gun plunged into the water. My other hand with the iron rod was on the ice surface. I could not move at all. I could not move my arm also. My gun was still in my grasp under water. The fridgid water was up to my chest.
My companion rushed towards me and pulled me out of the water. I experienced this dangerous event out in the bay. This wasn’t about drifting away on a sheet of ice. The patches of ice were like table tops and I fell in the gap. This was where I fell in the water. I encountered this perilous event out on the bay.
I did not panic. I was told that people should not panic when they go through a dangerous experience. I was told that they shouldn’t have fear. I remained calm. We still continued on our journey. We were heading to Cape Jones. Even though this happened, we continued our trip. My companions gave me some of their clothes to put on and we continued to Cape Jones. This was where we had originally wanted to go. The White people were already at Cape Jones. This is the story that I’m telling of something frightening that I experienced myself.
Translator’s notes: The “White people” at Cape Jones was the military presence during the Cold War. The Canadian and American military set up a radar station at Cape Jones in the late 1950s as part of the Mid-Canada Line of radar stations. Cree men in the area were given menial jobs and were able to earn a bit of money during the operation.