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Make Northland a Part of Your Future

My Reflections of My Time in a Northern Albertan Community

As newlyweds, my wife and I spent our first two years living in a fly-in community in Northern Alberta. My wife worked at the nursing station and I taught Grade 3. We lived in the teacherage and we enjoyed the friendships gained, the opportunity to get involved in the community and the outdoor lifestyle.

Initially shocked by the remoteness and lack of Tim Hortons, we eventually made friendships that lasted a lifetime. Weekends were times for potlucks and social gatherings. We ate and we laughed – some of us on a temporary career adventure and others who had made a permanent choice or who had lived in remote and Northern communities all their lives. Breaking bread with others was essential to our survival and the need to be part of a community.

Being involved in the larger community provided opportunity for professional development and leadership. My wife was on a representative for our community in national health programs and I coached hockey for our community team. I remember walking home from practice in the winter moonlight for supper. My greatest achievement in coaching was bringing a team to the provincials my second year. What an eye opening for my players who have never left the community. I had to buy a dozen goggles for these teenage boys as we sat in the shallow end of West Edmonton Mall’s wave pool. I took them to their first movie and restaurant. The boys commented how they missed moose meat and how their feet hurt from all the walking on concrete. The north provided such great teaching and learning experiences that remain with both of us. It gave us such great perspective and wisdom in making future decisions in our life.

Being in a remote rural community gets you to experience the outdoors and appreciate the changing seasons. We enjoyed our daily walks and our weekend excursions into nature. From picking cranberries to catching my first arctic grayling we enjoyed our time up North. After an invitation from locals, I even started duck hunting which was certainly outside my comfort zone. I eagerly accepted the trade with an elder for my ducks which meant I did not have to prepare and clean the ducks! If you enjoy the outdoor lifestyle....you will love the North.

My wife and I are extremely grateful for our time up North. It provided many opportunities and learning experiences that molded our lives and was a solid foundation on which we both built our careers. I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and try working in a Northern community. Adventure and life-long understanding awaits!

- Eric Dyck

Our Career and Life Journey to the North as Empty Nesters

My wife and I decided to embark on a new adventure as empty nesters and relocate to the north. We moved to Whitehorse, Yukon in the summer of 2018 to take posts at Yukon College and the Yukon Hospital Corporation, where I work in college administration and my spouse works as an RN. We made the move with a fair amount of fear and trepidation having lived in the ‘south’ (primarily central Alberta) for our entire lives. Although at times we yearn to be a bit closer to our family, we have met been pleasantly surprised around every corner of our experience in the north. We also make many trips back to the south and have had numerous visitors.

Whitehorse is dubbed the Wilderness city— for good reason. Eighty percent of the Yukon territory is
classified as wilderness and has some of the best hiking trails in Canada. Although we have only been in the north for two years, we have climbed many a peak together— from the southern lakes district where our favorite hike is the Sam McGee trail overlooking Tagish Lake all the way up to Tombstone provincial park. Each summit has given us ample rewards of stunning views. The fresh air, break from technology, and quality time together has brought us together as we navigate an new stage of life. Yet, the outdoor opportunities are certainly not limited to hiking. Many of my colleagues paddle the infamous Yukon River, a stunning waterway that flows through the heart of Whitehorse all the way north up through Alaska. And then of course there is the world-class fishing and hunting, which I have embraced.

Although outdoor experiences have been at the heart of our northern adventure, we have also steeped ourselves in learning about local culture. First Nations have been living in these lands for thousands of years. There are 14 First Nations and 8 language groups. Of the 14 First Nations, the majority are self- governing. In general, good work on reconciliation is unfolding in the territory and it has been a privilege to work with so many fine First Nation leaders.

Living in the sparsely populated north can at times feel lonely, but the hospitably of northerners closes this gap very quickly. We have been invited for supper into homes more times than I can recall. Northerners are hospitable and generous; perhaps it is the only way to get through the long winters.

The north is not for everyone, but if you are keen on adventure, learning, the land, and developing relationships—it is the best place to be on the planet.

- Wally