Learning Story – Fish Camp Fun

What Happened? 

We met in the parking lot and boarded our buses to make our way to the B Dene Fish Camp. Coco the dog joined us on the drives as well! First, our team of Bushkids and educators drove on the ice road to Dettah. When we arrived there were snowmobiles with sleds behind them ready to transport everyone to B Dene, further down the lake. 

We all gathered in the main lodge and Bobby Drygeese showed us a 300 year old copper pot that has been in his family for a long time. The pot was very worn and many pieces were falling off. The Bushkids had many questions. This created a wonderful inquiry into the significance of copper in this area, why the peoples of this nation are named Tetsǫ́t’ıné, why non-Indigenous settlers were named “rock people” and why the government brought Treaty 8 to this Land. As Bobby said “I could talk all day – what else do you want to know?”

Once the stories and snacks were over, we took the snowmobiles on a short ride down the lake to where they have a fish net in the water. Bobby and his staff showed us how to open the holes in the ice, the special tools they use and all the safety precautions they take to stay dry and to not lose their tools in the water. 

When it was time to pull the net out of the water we all grabbed a piece of the net and walked along the ice to pull it out. There were a couple of Bushkids who stayed at the hole and helped count the fish that were caught. There were seven fish! One of which was a very big trout. The fish were carefully pulled from the net – so many Bushkids loved handling the fish and getting them into the bucket. They wore special fish gloves and had many laughs with the floppy fish.

Pulling the net back into the water was so simple and fun, and then we went back to camp for snacks. B Dene had a great table of fruit, vegetables and baked goods.. Alestine Lockhart came to show us how to clean the fish. Several Bushkids were very interested in seeing all the organs and the beating heart from the trout was passed around for everyone to see.

While we waited for the fish to be cooked over the fire by Bobby’s team, Alestine showed the Bushkids how to make fish scale art. The creations were so creative and different for each Bushkid. Later in the afternoon Bobby took a large group of people on a walk on a trail around the camp while others stayed in and continued with more fish scale art. The snowmobile rides back to the buses was so fun with Coco the dog running alongside us.

Why was that important? 

This was the first time we went on snowmobiles at Bushkids and for some, it was their very first time ever riding on the back of one. Learning about how to protect your skin from the wind and the flying snow was important. Our rides were short, but we still wanted everyone comfy for the duration of the day. 

Pulling the nets from the water brought up a lot of interesting questions and discussions. Why is there cardboard on top of the hole in the ice and why do we need to have snow on top of the cardboard? The insulating properties this provides makes the hole in the ice easier to break into each time the net is pulled. The fish were alive when they were pulled and they had a lot of movement. Most of the fish we have at Bushkids has been dead for a while – a new experience for some! Seeing where our food comes from at the very start to when we got to eat the fresh fish 2 hours later is so important. The Bushkids got to pull the fish out of the water, transport them back to camp, watched and learned as the fish were cleaned and prepared, saw them get cooked over a fire that was made for us and then the fish was eaten. Our connection to food and the land can often be something we are far removed from when we shop at a grocery store. What a beautiful thing for our Bushkids to have been fully involved in their own lunch.

Alestine Lockhart showed us the trick to fish scale art, and how to apply the glue easily. The fish scales were dyed different colours and we learned how she did that with bingo dabbers and food dye. There were also pieces of fish spine bones and rib bones to embellish the pieces everyone was working on. Alestine showed us how to clean and break down the fish, and how she gets the scales off the fish, then she moved on to teach our team about fish scale art. Another extension of using the entire fish they just harvested from the lake. 

What will we do next? 

This week at Bushkids was a little different as the plan for the day was organized by Bobby and the B Dene team, so there wasn’t a closing circle that we normally have. We will be having a form of a “debrief chat” with the Bushkids to hear from them what stayed with them as some fond memories and learnings from the day. Next session we will be able to do the fish scale art as they shared some supplies with us and we will continue the discussion we had about using the entire animal that we gather from the water and how many ways this fish benefits us. Noticing the differences between the land we are on at Bushkids Camp and the land we had a

full day on at B Dene Camp on Great Slave Lake will be a focus. We plan to bring a muskox head and the bear hide we began to work on to Bushkids next week and we will continue to experience how all parts of the animal are used and respected.