Mountain view: Friends, pictures like this one bring back a lot of memories.
To represent the North as we did, for the first-ever Canada Winter Games, winter of 1967, we had to go out in the freezing 30 to 40 below weather, almost every day, to train under the Northern lights.
For me it was a chance to get away from the soul-wrenching residential school, the notorious Grollier Hall. I know that at least one other member of the team felt the same way.
Our coaches, Father Mouchet and Dave Sutherland were very strict but fair, putting us through our paces, trying to let us know, this early on, what to expect.
Because we trained in such low temperatures we weren’t used to what we thought of as balmy weather, when we raced in the ‘outside’, the south.
People there could not believe it when we took part in the grueling cross-country runs, in our T-shirts!
Of the nine athletes pictured here, four are from my hometown of Radelie Koe, Fort Good Hope. To this day our local athletes are superior and often come back to decorate the high school gym with a growing number of winning banners and new additions to the trophy case.
The two Tourangeau girls make six of nine from the Sahtu, Great Bear Lake Region.
I am third from left on the top row, with the late John Turo next to me. He was also a well-known artist, from the late ’70s on.
The one team member I was always the most impressed with, though, was John Ross, in centre of the bottom row.
This young man from Fort McPherson just showed up one day and we didn’t see a lot of him in the races. You knew for sure he was at the starting gate, but after that it was anyone’s guess where he might be at.
He didn’t have a lot of the precise technique required to cover a lot of ground, fast, but he had that indomitable Gwich’in heart and determination you just don’t see a lot of anywhere, anytime!
For the record, the top row, left, are coach Father Mochet, John Turo, me, coach Dave Sutherland, Gloria Allen and Harold Cook. Bottom row, Fred the Kelly-Express, Margaret Steen, John Ross, Eva and Janette Tourangeau.
Janette did the best of our team at the Canada Winter Games, putting the North on the sports map. Five, including the Firth Twins, Roseanne Allen and myself, made it all the way to the NWT Sports Hall of Fame, with one coach, Father Mouchet.
This man skied almost every day of his long life. One belief of his which I have always shared is that, in his words, “Nature is the Church!”
Some memories never die!