Monday, January 23, 2023

We left Billy Bishop Airport and flew to Thunder Bay. The plane was thirty minutes late leaving from Billy Bishop, so we missed our connecting flight by the time we got to Thunder Bay. We had to spend the night at a Hampton Inn in Thunder Bay.

We had a delicious dinner at a Chinese restaurant. Then, we walked from the hotel. It was a lot colder in Thunder Bay than in balmy Toronto.

I share a room with Andy. I had the bed. He had the couch. Let’s say Andy snores loudly.


We waited in the airport for most of the day. Then, we got bumped off the original plane and ended up on a charter with just our group. The good news was we flew straight to Muskrat Dam instead of stopping at different villages. The bad news was that it was a tiny plane.

While in the Thunder Bay airport, I met my old neighbour, Will Grubic, who is now a pilot for Perimeter Airlines. What are the chances? When leaving the Hampton Inn, I met my camp nurse, Katherine Moore, in the lobby. Crazy!

We flew in a small, eight-seater plane straight to Muskrat Dam. When I arrived, my body took a while to climatize. I was shivering for about thirty minutes.


I worked with a family in the treatment centre. They were there with their mom. We played games, sang songs, and I played my guitar. Jackson always greeted me with a hug. They were all adorable children. I enjoyed my time with them.

I also worked at the school. I taught the students new games and gave them a leadership talk. I felt the pull to help a boy named “J.” He seemed to be very sad. I gave him a Kids 4 Kids hat and a pep talk. I met him on my initial visit. There was a difference in his demeanour. I hope my talk helped him feel better about his situation.

While I was teaching games to the students, the other team members were doing grief therapy. Many children were crying. “J” ran out of the room in tears. These kids deal with suicide, death, and loss. They probably worry about high school as they go to either Sioux Lookout or Thunder Bay for high school. They all hear about native children being beaten up, killed and who go missing—so much stress, pain and anxiety.

I was part of a women’s share session. The women shared their stories and were given dinner. We had caribou stew. Please remind me to avoid deer and caribou. It doesn’t agree with me. Women shared their stories of loss, feeling alone, and not having any money or limited food and wood. It was a worthwhile event. After our talk, the ladies visited Diana and Todd’s house for a spa evening.

I participated in a breakfast for community members who were getting off drugs. They would receive medication and then breakfast. After that, I helped with cleaning the dishes.

There were many dogs in the community. They would follow me up the road, hoping for food. There was one poor door shivering at the front door of the school. Most dogs travel in packs. But there was one dog with gorgeous blue eyes. Here is a photo.


We were in the house where we were staying on Wednesday evening when the lights suddenly went out. This is not good when you are in a climate of -35-45 degrees. The power was turned off in the community because the house up the street was on fire. It burned down to the ground. There are no fire departments in Muskrat Dam. Water would be useless in these cold temperatures.

The kids gave us cards and were at the school door, waving at us on our last day, just before we left for the plane. One of the cards from the students said – “thank you for making me laugh. Not many people can do this.”

Two of the older students came to the airport to see us off. So it was a pleasant surprise.

We left Friday at 4:00 pm. We flew to Round Lake, Sioux Lookout, and Thunder Bay. Unfortunately, there were some unruly children on the plane. I longed for my noise-cancelling headphones.

We stayed in a bed and breakfast. We ordered pizza, and Andy, David and I watched the Red Green Show. David was laughing out loud hysterically.

 I ended up with a bedroom in the basement. It was hot, but at least it was private and quiet. The house we stayed in at Muskrat Dam was Ester’s house—a community member out of the village. I also had my own room. The bed was hard, but again, at least it was private.

We left Thunder Bay at 8:30 am. It was a short two-hour flight.

We took the shuttle to the train station and the Go Train to Burlington. My dad picked me up at the Go Station with Gwen and took me home.

Muskrat Dam is an amazing community with amazing people. I hope to return every January to reconnect and help in any way I can.