Friday, October 24, 2014

"A good way to see the country"--Renee and Solomon Carriere of the South Sask. Delta

Saskatchewan River Delta from the air (image from Boreal Songbird Initiative website)

I've been dreaming lately about water, thinking especially about people who have found ways to live well by the ebb and flow of rivers, lakes, and sloughs.

Solomon Carriere is a paddler, hunter, outfitter, and dog-sledder who lives on the Saskatchewan River Delta straddling the Saskatchewan-Manitoba border--10,000 square kilometres of wet wilderness. The largest inland delta in North America and one of Canada's great ecological treasures, the Delta has little protection, other than people like Solomon and his wife Renee who live there and keep an eye on things. For them, the river is everything--food, transportation, livelihood, and sustenance for the soul.

Unfortunately, SaskPower's hydroelectric dams upstream are wreaking havoc with the natural flow of the river, causing siltation and harming aquatic plant and animal populations.

In last December's issue of Canadian Geographic, Allan Casey published an excellent article on the Delta. In it he speaks to Solomon and Renee about their lives and how the river has changed. (Here is a taste: "Twice [Renee] has led school students on 32-day paddling trips from the river’s glacier source in the Rockies to Cumberland House. The kids, none of whom had ever spent a night outdoors, started out fearful, some overweight. By the time they reached home, their bodies had hardened up, their fears of the wild softened.")

But I first heard about the Carriere family in a documentary on the delta created by Ian Toews a few years back: Saskatchewan River Delta.

This week, out of the blue, I received an email from Solomon, which surprised me because I know he lives along the river in a pretty remote spot far from internet access. The message was about an egret he had seen twice this past summer on one of the channels of the delta.

I told him that Great Egrets are pretty uncommon anywhere in the province but are increasing year by year, breeding farther north all the time. He sent along some photos and this video, showing the egret flying ahead of him as he travels along the Stone River toward Cumberland House.

As a competitive long-distance paddler, Solomon is regularly in his canoe up and down the streams that make up the Delta, keeping his paddling muscles in shape. He sent along a photo of the boat he and his adult son, Riel, rowed and paddled from their home on the Delta downstream to Lake Manitoba, which they then crossed (!). I think this is Riel in the rowing position.

Solomon has a Youtube channel, kingsolvidio, which shows some of the things he does in travelling all seasons in the Delta (I think he sneaks into Cumberland House, fifty-one Kms away to go online now and then).

Here is a video about their Lake Manitoba adventure:

When I asked if they actually paddled and rowed the whole way, he replied, "Yeah we paddle. It's a good way to see the country."

Carriere's ancestors lived along the river, as many Metis did from along the waterways of Canada's NorthWest from the 1700s into the Twentieth Century.

As long as there are still people like Renee and Solomon along the waters there is someone keeping an eye on the birds, the moose, the muskrat and the fish; someone who just by watching and speaking on behalf of the more-than-human world around them, show the rest of us what it is to lead a rich and gracious life, congruent with the river and its life.

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