Posted by Timothy FitzGerald on Oct 30, 2019
That is how it is spelt (phonetically) - just as it is pronounced!
Peter Wheatley (educator), Marjorie and Jim Dawson (both engineers) are members of the Rotary Club of Norfolk Sunrise (meetings Tuesday AM) and drove to Pikangikum last winter - being thanked today by our Rotarian Stan Knowles.
The trio said the "Ice Road" serving Pikanjikum is reliable only two plus months of the year. The rest of the year its fly-in, fly-out or river barge for bulk deliveries during the summer/melt to stock up for the winter. The community is 3,000 people.
Jim and Marjorie are not strangers to the area. They have completed many canoe trips and other adventures here over the years. They were joined by a Winnipeg Rotarian (Mennonite minister) and his adult son (yet another engineer). Rotarians on the road are bound to have good natured fun - usually at each others expense. Peter, quite tall, was a natural to organize basketball games at the high school. Jim became quite articulate backing up a big trailer behind a big Ford pick-up truck; but, was also self-appointed as a fuel conservationalist - "go green"! So to Jim, excessive warming up the truck in January was a no-no. Peter (tall boy) could not see out the top of the frozen windshield; but remarks that "positive" Marjorie (normal height or less) could look through the steering wheel at the defrosted area and did not "see" the problem.
But what of the Rotarian (minister) from Winnipeg? He brought pictures of a visit he had made to Pikangikum some 30-40 years earlier. Showing them at the community centre, kids shouted out "that's my grand father", "that's my auntie" ... . Pikangikum translated from Ojibway is "one river, one people, one voice". The residents of Pikangikum even as they are gathering together bits of their history are trying to piece together their future culture.
I Googled Pikangikum and found this video recorded by the youth of Pikangikum quite revealing.
So while the "engineers" were unpacking, organizing and envisioning a fix to most anything, Peter organized basketball games but also spoke to the Band Chief and asked what help did they need most. Paradox - although the high school and similar buildings are modern - tap water is supplied with spring loaded taps and GI infections are common/contagious - kids miss school days. The community at 51.8 North latitude is in a permafrost zone. So water and sewer infrastructure can not be buried (else it would freeze or even if it was insulated and buried would still melt the permafrost, then break and then freeze - get it!). So residents and the band transport water from a single heated supply source in the town. Envision if you had to carry water in jugs to your house - get it home before it froze and keep it heated when you got it home - you might conserve water excessively as well. Marjorie also pointed out that this self-imposed water conservation would also be especially risky for residents with diabetes - said, who need to drink water to balance their sugar levels.
Listening today, I now understand that new government infrastructure (buildings and water supplies) alone may not be the complete solution.
The Chief advised that some kids are wearing summer shoes to school in winter. They have indoor arenas and outdoor skating rinks but a shortage of skates ages 4-5 to 25 years old.  The list goes on; but above all, the Band Chief asked for "HELP TO KEEP OUR KIDS IN SCHOOL LONGER"!
The Sunrise trio "making a difference", rounded up 100 pair of shoes from Al's Shoes, 20 new pairs of skates from from Boyko's and a sports store in Haggersville, books, Blue Star Ford donated a vehicle, two bushels of apples from Norfolk Fruit Growers (of course these were Peter's bunk buddies for the duration of the trip). All of this and more was packed into a trailer (except Peter's bunk buddies warm inside the truck during the day) and driven north in January.
The future? The youth are eager. The girls of Pikanjikum want to start a hockey team of their own. The local economy is limited. Residents hire themselves out for tree planting and fighting forest fires. A local saw mill initiative is creating some employment.