Last week I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Peawanuck!
All packed up with my warmest clothes (okay…Kaitlyn’s warmest clothes) and a beautiful collection box and photos of select insects and arachnids collected around Peawanuck, I was ready for the trip! Creating the collection was a made possible with the dedication of many in the Trentomology lab. Thanks John Ringrose, Kaitlyn Fleming, Sherri DeGasparro, Kathryn Vezsenyi, Shelby Gibson and Jen Rowsell!!!
Peawanuck is a small Cree community in Northern Ontario… really Northern Ontario. Their community is situated near the Winisk river. Historically, their community was much closer to Hudson Bay in Winisk, however their community moved to Peawanuck in the late 80’s.
An 8 hour drive North from Trentomology’s home of Peterborough to the lovely town of Timmins was just part one of the trip! From there, myself and 4 others boarded a (super fancy) plane and flew to Peawanuck. For most of the flight, cloud cover made it hard to see the landscape. Luckily, the clouds cleared for a bit around where the roads stop in Ontario and as we flew over some of the beautiful rivers that connect to Hudson Bay.
We had some time before our scheduled meeting at the community center, so we went around the town. We were able to meet some people and advertise the meeting. Everyone we met was really nice!
At the meeting, community members shared information about areas where they saw different animals. Many were most excited to discuss the fish in the area. I displayed the collection and a booklet of photos for the community and had many people interested in seeing them and discussing which were most familiar, and where to find others. I also brought some common supplies used in our lab.
Some of the people I met told me a bit about themselves. Matthias was recently in Timmins attending Northern College and was excited to hear a bit about the programs offered at Trent University. He told me he couldn’t wait for the warmer weather of spring. I told him I completely agreed, but I’m from much further South than him so that doesn’t mean as much coming from me. I’ve heard Peawanuck is, on average, the coldest area in Ontario! His brothers were really interested in the Dytiscid in the collection box and we got to talk a bit about where to find these insects. Ivan and Edmond described the fish they had seen in different areas, and were able to point them out on the map. Ivan’s two daughters were happy to play with the plastic insects I had brought and took them and lots of insect stickers home! One of his daughters helped me to carefully clean fingerprints off of the collection box glass. I also met their grandmother who was kindly waiting by the food to make sure everyone got what they wanted. One woman was selling beautiful hand made items and proudly displayed them at the meeting. She sold out pretty quickly! I also met a man named Gilbert who showed me the path that him and his dad traveled from Peawanuck to one of the lakes. He told me “they said it couldn’t be done, and we did it” to which I replied “show me on the map again so I can tell everyone I know how amazing your trip was!”
Ivan also told me that the elders in the community appreciate insects and their role in the ecosystem. This was a refreshing thing to hear as it it not what I am used to hearing from other places. It was really wonderful to interact with people who were interested to learn about the insects and arachnids in their area.
I left the collection and booklet with Ivan, who would then give it to the school. This is the ideal place for the collection, and we’re thrilled they were excited to have it there too!
I’m thrilled to say I have visited Peawanuck! I had a wonderful time talking to some really nice people about bugs!