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 A Brief History of Aklavik and Moose Kerr School 

Moose Kerr School (MKS) has a rich and culturally diverse history. Built in 1969, under the guidance and support of Arnold J. (Moose) Kerr (a teacher and  administrator in Aklavik between 1952 and 1961), MKS was built on the premise  of inclusive and culturally infused education. To support, part of the first  employed faculty at MKS included Indigenous Instructors and since then, have  had a number of Indigenous educators providing their wisdom and leadership;  one of which was Velma Illasiak, a principal of MKS from 1999-2018. 

Today, Moose Kerr School is home to more than 125 students and employs 35  faculty and staff – 17 of whom have been born and raised in Aklavik; the longest  standing has been with the school for 47 years (Margo McLeod). If you were to  visit MKS today, you’d soon realize that the school is active in its academic  deliveries, but also in its belief that culture must be the driving force behind what  students learn and experience. Besides delivery of Indigenous units on  drumming, languages, jigging, Welcoming Back the Sun, and the ever-popular  Muskrat Trapping, Moose Kerr School also ensures that each child experiences everything from on-the-land activities to processing wild meat to annually  participating in the NWT Indigenous Games. It is, as most would say, a school built  for the community. Of course, this is a testament to the ancestral elders who set  the platform from which Moose Kerr was built. 

As for Aklavik, which has been established as a Hamlet since 1974, it began  existence in the early 1900s when the Pokiak and Greenland families settled by  the then, Trading Post. Shortly afterwards, in and around 1920, the Hudson Bay  Company set up shop to purchase the many furs coming to Aklavik from  throughout the region. At the same time, the Anglican Church (1919-1936) and  the Roman Catholic Church (1925-1936) set up schools for children. Aklavik was  now becoming settled and was in fact, such a desirable representative of the  north that soon after the 1920s, interest in locating in Aklavik had spread throughout Canada. Some of the organizations making their way included the  RCMP building its Western Arctic Headquarters in 1922; the All Saints Anglican  and Immaculate Conception Hospitals being established in 1925; and, in the same  year, the Canadian Corps of Signals Station opened. In fact, by 1929 air mail was being delivered; with C. H. Dickens landing the first cargo airplane in Aklavik.

However, as it was in the north at the time, there were those who did not  appreciate the growing community and encroaching interference. One such  individual was Albert Johnson, a.k.a. the Mad Trapper of Rat Creek. After a  trapping license dispute, Alberta Johnson began what would become the largest  manhunt in the north, when he did not cooperate with the RCMP and fired  warning shots after they questioned him about it. In response, and over a  distance of more than 137 km in some of the roughest conditions on earth, the  RCMP hunting party eventually tracked Alberta Johnson down and killed him after  an intense shoot-out; he was later buried in Aklavik. In the end, Alberta Johnson  was responsible for killing Constable Edgar Millen and injuring one other officer.  To this day there continues to be an investigation of who he was and where he  came from.  

Aklavik and Moose Kerr School have come a long way since their earlier days.  Even despite the new transition program initiative (beginning in 1953) which in  1958 resulted in attempts to relocate community members to the now-known  town of Inuvik, Aklavik and Moose Kerr School persevered. In fact, it was from  this that in 1980 Aklavik adopted the motto of Never Say Die

At Moose Kerr School we endeavour to have students, school, families, and community members work together with a common understanding of the past, present and future. It is what fosters the foundation of ‘Never Say Die!’ It also ensures that all students and representatives of the school remain in a loving and accepting environment while students acquire the necessary skills for lifelong learning.


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2022-2023 News and Updates

Beaufort Delta District Education Council unveils five-year vision

Beaufort Delta District Education Council (BDDEC) is aggressively working to improve graduation rates.

Superintendent Devin Roberts said the district has gone so far as to expand its team of mobile teachers.

“This year new trades teachers were hired to travel the district and provide more high school courses to smaller schools outside of Inuvik,” he said. “The plan is to improve graduation rates and reduce the number of students who enter grade ten but do not graduate. This has become a focus of the BDDEC vision which we hope to report on over the next five to ten years.”

As of the 2020/2021 year, the six-year graduation rate for the Northwest Territories is 60 per cent. Split between regions, the rate is 74 per cent in Yellowknife, 55 per cent in regional centres like Inuvik and 45 per cent in smaller communities. Graduation rates for Indigenous students is 49 per cent across the territory, compared to 81 per cent for non-Indigenous students. Roberts said BDDEC wants to turn those lower numbers around.

It is part of BDDEC’s overall 2022 to 2027 vision, developed by a council with representatives from all eight Beaufort Delta communities. The vision will renew the district’s focus on the Dene Kede and Inuuqatigiit curriculum, which teachers are expected to bring into lessons as much as possible. To help facilitate this, teachers are encouraged to bring in knowledge keepers and Elders to help students learn traditional skills, stories and languages alongside learning science, technology, engineering and math.

A renewed focus on trades education as well as mental wellness is also part of the new vision. Roberts said the vision follows a concept of three “I’s” — Indigenized Education, Inquiry and Inclusive Schooling.

“Decolonizing the education system as much as possible within our local locus of control is a main priority for BDDEC,” he said. “The efforts to advance truth and reconciliation can be seen with the Elders in the School programs and BDDEC’s new vision which includes a focus on voice and choice for students. The voices of the youth in the region must be valued, fostered and supported throughout their education. BDDEC has asked all schools to develop a student council. These student councils will work together to provide youth more of a forum to bring forward ideas and concerns about their education system in real time.

“Also in the day to day classes BDDEC teachers are providing students more opportunities for voice and choice using inquiry as the main method of teaching. Students become active in their learning. They are encouraged to practice and become more comfortable with oracy skills. This is supported through partner talks and small group work eventually building students up to become confident in public speaking, presenting, critical thinking and articulation. The students are the future leaders of the communities and thus BDDEC believes fostering communication skills will support the youth in becoming confident leaders.”

To help students feel more included, the district has re-branded its logo and purchased orange lighting to shine the message that Every Child Matters throughout the dark Beaufort Delta nights.

Implementation of the new vision is already underway, after a motion at the annual District Education Council meeting in March set it in action. Roberts said the first step of that is community engagement to gather feedback on where the vision is going. Changes from said feedback will be announced this fall. After that, the plan is to partner with the Gwich’in Tribal Council and Inuvialuit Regional Corporation to develop a 10-year plan for student success across the Beaufort Delta.

“In the meantime staff have been trained using the Dene Kede and Inuuqatigiit curriculums learning how to Indigenize programming,” said Roberts. “Partnerships between schools, Elders and Traditional Knowledge Keepers are underway. An Inquiry network for teachers and principals meets monthly. The inquiry networks are supported by consultants and BDDEC senior management.

“BDDEC has a repository of lessons and strategies to support Indigenized Education, Inquiry and Inclusive Schooling through Google Drive available to staff. BDDEC senior leadership and a team of consultants travel the district supporting schools with the BDDEC vision.”


Every night since last Sept. 30, Beaufort Delta District Education Council’s windows have glowed orange to remind the world that Every Child Matters. Photo courtesy of Beaufort Delta District Education Council

Every night since last Sept. 30, Beaufort Delta District Education Council’s windows have glowed orange to remind the world that Every Child Matters. Photo courtesy of Beaufort Delta District Education Council



Currie, Crook and Kilo: NWT names its first music award winners

Currie, Crook and Kilo: NWT names its first music award winners


Miranda Currie, Crook the Kid and Kilo November were among the winners as Music NWT staged its inaugural awards ceremony in Yellowknife on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the Yellowknives Dene Drummers, Ted Wesley and Norm Glowach entered a newly formed NWT music hall of fame during a combined awards and induction ceremony at the Explorer Hotel.

Drummer Cody Drygeese said the award demonstrated the health of Dene drumming.

“I’m very happy to say that right now we have many people in our First Nation who are still participating in this ancient cultural practice,” he said.

Cody Drygeese, who appeared on behalf of the Yellowknives Dene Drummers for their induction into the NWT's music hall of fame
Cody Drygeese, who appeared on behalf of the Yellowknives Dene Drummers for their induction into the NWT’s music hall of fame. Megan Miskiman/Cabin Radio

Guitarist Ted Wesley passed away last December. Sister-in-law Heather Pritchard, appearing on his behalf, said Ted was “a wonderful musician with a very large range” who obsessively studied songs he heard.

“He didn’t do music for money or fame. He mostly played for free,” she said. “And he missed his chance for fame when he went to the Juno Awards, because they really wanted to sign up this wonderful young talent, but he would have to move to Toronto. And who the hell wants to leave the North to move to Toronto?”

Mayor of Yellowknife Rebecca Alty, introducing Norm Glowach as the night’s final inductee, noted he had spent decades focusing his immense skillset, from musical ability to audio engineering, on the Northwest Territories.

“I’m lucky,” said Glowach. “I get to record people. I get to work with my bandmates, who I have been playing with in Priscilla’s Revenge for 15 years. This is a pretty good life, I’d recommend it to anybody.”

Currie, named the NWT’s Indigenous artist of the year on Saturday, recently released an album designed to help children learn their traditional language.

“Every time I hear Miranda play, her music plays in my mind for the next six hours,” said the ceremony’s host, Inuk author and throat-singer Tanya Snow.

Al Bee, right, receives the 2022 NWT Music Award for best new album
Al Bee, right, receives the 2022 NWT Music Award for best new album. Megan Miskiman/Cabin Radio
Crook the Kid at the 2022 NWT Music Awards
Crook the Kid at the 2022 NWT Music Awards. Megan Miskiman/Cabin Radio

“It feels really nice that folks are recognizing my music,” Currie told Cabin Radio.

“We played a lot of shows this week and kids are singing the songs and the lyrics, even for the new album. That’s the thing that always touches me the most, when you see parents and kids singing along to stuff.


“You’re like, yay, because I write this music with a message to change that Indigenous narrative in Canada, starting with young people and their families.”

Gnarwhal’s Deep Spaced was crowned the best new single of the past year. The award for best new album went to Al Bee’s One From The Other.

Kilo November, the teenage DJ who sensationally closed the Cabin Stage at Folk on the Rocks 2019 and returned in 2021, was honoured for the territory’s best live performance.

Kilo November performs at Folk on the Rocks 2019.

“I’m still shocked. I kind-of don’t believe it,” said the 14-year-old, adding he discovered he had been nominated after his mom received the call while he played video games.

“She came into my room and said, ‘Something crazy has happened.’ I’m like, ‘What?’ And she’s like, ‘You’ve been nominated for this music award thingy.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh no way, that’s awesome.’

“I decided not to get my hopes up because I didn’t honestly think I would win.”

Fort Good Hope rapper Crook the Kid, who performed on the night, won the songwriting award of excellence. “I can’t believe someone in this room thought it was OK to give me an award,” he told the audience, laughing, following his set.

Other performances at the gala, opened by the Yellowknives Dene Drummers, included Nara, Johnny Cole, SkyFire Taiko (a form of Japanese percussion), Munya Mataruse, Five Thirds Mad, and Brenden MacIntosh, who won best debut release for Coffee Break.

Brenden MacIntosh performs at the 2022 NWT Music Awards
Brenden MacIntosh, centre, performs at the 2022 NWT Music Awards. Megan Miskiman/Cabin Radio
David Dowe accepts a music industry award at the 2022 NWT Music Awards
David Dowe accepts a music industry award at the 2022 NWT Music Awards. Megan Miskiman/Cabin Radio

David Dowe’s Double D Studios won 2022’s music industry award, while Inuvik’s Great Northern Arts Festival won an award recognizing its work as a venue. Inuvik resident Abe Drennan collected that award on the event’s behalf before picking up the night’s fan choice award.

Saturday’s ceremony, the first such awards night ever staged by Music NWT, took place in a gold-bedecked banquet hall with two stages and a live online broadcast.

The event was masterminded by Music NWT’s president, Trevor Sinclair, in the hope that a dedicated and, by Yellowknife’s standards, lavish annual awards night will help to give the territory’s industry a higher profile.

The winners, in the order they were announced:

  • Songwriting: Crook the Kid
  • Music Industry: Double D Studios
  • Venue: Great Northern Arts Festival
  • Live Performance: Kilo November
  • Music Video: Keith Robertson for Thin Ice, by Andrea Bettger
  • Fan Choice: Abe Drennan
  • Indigenous Artist: Miranda Currie
  • Debut Release: Brenden MacIntosh
  • New Single: Gnarwhal for Deep Spaced
  • New Album: Al Bee for One From The Other

See the full list of nominees in our earlier coverage.

Fan favourite Abe Drennan could not be more grateful by Eric Bowling October 5, 2022

Abe Drennan can’t say enough thanks to his fans.

He was named the first-ever NWT Music Awards Fan Choice at the first-ever gala Sept. 10 — edging out other big-name artists like Leela and Jay Gilday’s project Sechile – Sedare and the band Welders Daughter — for his music video Way Up North, which he filmed with local video-pro David Stewart. The video was also nominated for Music Video Excellence.

“It was amazing. It was an exhilarating feeling,” he said. “Right before the nominees are announced, you get this whole build-up and all of a sudden my name came up. I was just so happy.

“The Fan Choice award is a great award to win. All the awards are great, but I think the Fan Choice is great because you’re chosen by the people who listen to and like your music. And that matters most, because without our fans as artists we’re just folks making music in our basements. The fans are the ones who appreciate and value what we do — how could I not be more grateful.”

With 20 years of work put into his music, Drennan said being named the fan favourite felt like an acknowledgement of the time he’s put into his craft. But more-so he said it was the result of the many friends he’s made through music along the way.

“For years and years I have been sharing my music with people,” he said. “From my hometown in Bancroft, Ont. which I know is always supporting my music and what I’m doing, and folks from here and family and friends. It’s just a culmination of time. That adds up and those relationships build.

“I’m all about connecting to people and building meaningful relationships. That’s who I am. And you know, I know my people have my back, but this was just a further confirmation of that. It just felt so good.”

His own recognition aside, Drennan said it was an important milestone for the NWT to host an Music Awards Gala and the effort to bring it about has been underway for a long time.

Put on by Music NWT and initially pushed by Trevor Sinclair, the awards ceremony was the first of its kind.

“It’s was an important step in establishing our musical community in the NWT,” he said. “It was good for artist recognition, good for community building and great connecting with everybody.

“Many of the award winners and such were people I haven’t had the chance to meet face to face, but I have been collaborating with people around the NWT virtually for over a year now and finally we came together. It so special that way.”

Now that he’s earned his mantelpiece, Drennan is back to his life’s work, with plans to put together a new single and album over the winter.

He said he’s working on an EP with Bell Rock recording out of Fort Smith, but didn’t have a release date yet. So stay tuned.

“I’m honoured and grateful to be chosen for the fan choice,” he said. “Shout out to Trevor Sinclair and the NWT Board of Directors and to all the award winners and nominees — it was such an honour to be a part of it all.”

Ulukhaktok mural reflects life in a new land for Muslim teen from Ontario

Ulukhaktok mural reflects life in a new land for Muslim teen from Ontario

A girl wearing a head scarf stands behind a large painting.
Ruqaiyah Noor-e-Zahra Naqvi stands with the mural she and fellow student Alison Klengenberg-Kuneluk painted. (Submitted by Nicholas Kopot)

For 17-year-old Ruqaiyah Noor-e-Zahra Naqvi, living in the small N.W.T. hamlet of Ulukhaktok means muskox hunts, snowfalls like she's never seen before, drum dances and ravens.

Naqvi, a Muslim student at Helen Kalvak School who recently moved to the community of about 400 people, brought all those concepts together with the help of fellow student Alison Klengenberg-Kuneluk for a mural that now hangs on a wall at the school.

"It's definitely [an] interesting thing for me to try, because I never worked on a project that big," said Naqvi, who is in Grade 12.

"I think definitely because of the friends I've met here, I was able to try new things and kind of open myself up a bit."

Naqvi and her family moved to Ulukhaktok in 2020 when her mother took a job as a junior high teacher at the school. It was an unplanned move for the family, who had been living in Burlington, Ont.

"When we were going to move to Ulukhaktok … I almost felt like I get to see another view, another side of my brothers or sisters in humanity," said Ambreen Zahra Bokhari, Naqvi's mother. "We are all part of the same light."

Three smiling women and girls in a selfie taken against a backdrop of tall blue flowers and green grass.
Ruqaiya Noor-e-Zahra Naqvi, left, with her mom Ambreen Zahra Bohari and sister Sakina-Mariam Sufia Naqvi. The family moved to Ulukhaktok in 2020. (Submitted by Ambreen Zahra Bohari)

Though out of her comfort zone at first, Naqvi soon settled in. She began to meet people, make friends, and started her own creative arts club. She joined a muskox hunt with other students, took part in a drum dance and learned from elders about what they experienced at residential schools.

"It broke my heart," she said of hearing those residential school experiences. "But I think the point of them sharing it was to remind people of how far they've come in what has happened in the past, so you don't forget."

She wove those emotional and special experiences all together with paint. She's thankful, she said, for the history, culture and knowledge people have shared with her.

"If you told me two or three years ago that I would go hunting for muskox for nine hours in deep snow … I would be like, 'Are you crazy? I would never do something like that!'" she said.

"That's an experience you don't forget."

The mural is one of 33 funded by the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation and commissioned by the Inuvialuit Community Economic Development Organization back in March as part of the Inuvialuit Mural Project. The project aimed to support artists across the Inuvialuit Settlement Region with a stipend for their work.

A group of people stand and sit around a mural.
Joanne Ogina, Mary Kudlak, Agnes Kuptana, Annie Inuktalik, Alison Klengenberg-Kuneluk, Annie Goose and Ruqaiyah Noor-e-Zahra Naqvi show off the school's new mural. (Submitted by Nicholas Kopot)

Though most of the artists for the other murals are Inuvialuit, school principal Nicholas Kopot recommended Naqvi and Klengenberg-Kuneluk for this one — an unusual opportunity for the new student.

Alexandrea Gordon, communications manager for the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, said in an email that individual community corporations selected the various artists.

She wrote that the decision to allow a non-Indigenous student to be one of the painters "demonstrates how inclusive our people are."

Gordon said the idea was to give artists freedom to express empowerment, culture and self-pride.

"This allowed the artists to create art without boundaries," she wrote.

Naqvi's finished product features a pink-cheeked girl with an ulu-shaped earring, breathing on her mitts to warm her hands. Three hills rise amidst clouds, and a baby raven takes flight over the silhouettes of a woman and a child holding hands. The silhouettes represent the important message of Orange Shirt Day.

"I thought, there's a lot of great things, but you shouldn't forget about the sad things that happened as well," she explained.

Copies of all the murals will be displayed down the streets of Inuvik early this winter.

With files from Karli Zschogner

GNWT job satisfaction increasingly resembles shrug emoji

The latest GNWT satisfaction survey suggests life at the territorial government is, for an increasing number of staff, as appetizing as a gentle slap in the face with a wet fish.

While a majority of employees are broadly happy, results published on Tuesday show morale has dipped since a 2016 survey and pride in the NWT government is slipping.

Sixty-five percent of people said they are proud to work at the GNWT, a drop of six percent since 2016. Sixty-six percent of people said they’d recommend the GNWT as a great place to work, also a six-percent decline.


Seventy-four percent of staff responding to the survey said they agreed with the phrase: “Overall, I am satisfied in my work as a GNWT employee.” That figure had dropped just under one percent since the last survey and has essentially remained unchanged for a decade or more.

Overall, the survey reported a 3.4-percent drop in GNWT morale since 2016. High turnover rates and an inability (or disinclination) to take annual leave were highlighted issues. The report containing the results stated that the Covid-19 pandemic and its associated travel rules were probably factors.

A GNWT press release about the results on Tuesday avoided mentioning any of them, though there were some bright spots among a general sense of mild decay.

“These results provide the GNWT with the information needed to improve employee engagement and satisfaction across the public service,” said finance minister Caroline Wawzonek, whose department oversees human resources.

The good news? NWT government staff think some aspects of diversity at work are going well.

Seventy-five percent of respondents agreed that “the GNWT promotes cross-cultural awareness opportunities for employees,” a whopping nine-percent increase on 2016’s figure and the largest improvement across any aspect of the survey. The report’s authors concluded GNWT initiatives in this area are having “tangible impacts.”

On top of that, 90 percent of respondents said they have good relations with their coworkers. More than 80 percent find at least some of their work “challenging and interesting.”

Yet despite this, only 52 percent of people responding agreed with the statement: “I would describe our workplace as being psychologically healthy.” (This was a new question for 2021 and doesn’t have a previous result for the purposes of comparison.)

Only 57 percent said they felt valued as a GNWT employee.


If you work at the GNWT, you may find some of the lowest scores telling.

Just 37 percent of respondents, the survey’s lowest score, agreed that “the GNWT has adequate reward programs in place to help celebrate and acknowledge individual and team efforts.” (The report recommends, as one solution, that “employees may be given pay-for-performance as a reward for work well done.”

Forty-nine percent agreed that “essential information flows effectively from senior leadership to staff.” Those were the only two scores below 50 percent.

You can find report cards by department and agency on the GNWT’s website.

Students' caribou hunt in Aklavik provides meat for entire school

Students' caribou hunt in Aklavik provides meat for entire school

A group of students from Aklavik, N.W.T., went on a caribou hunt with some experienced hunters earlier this month. They came back with six animals — enough for every student at the local school to bring some meat home. (Inuvialuit Regional Corporation)

It was an all-new experience for Jordan Archie.

"My brothers and them would go, but for me, this was my first time ever going caribou hunting," said Archie, a student at Moose Kerr School in Aklavik, N.W.T.

Archie was part of a group of students from the school that teamed up with some local hunters this month to harvest some caribou. It was organized as a one-on-one learning experience on the land, with six students and six experienced hunters.

"I think of it as a great opportunity and I was thankful of going," Archie said.

Megan Lennie, a regional youth coordinator with the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (IRC), helped organize the event along with another teacher at the school. It was organized through Project Jewel, an on-the-land wellness initiative run by the IRC.

Lennie said the original idea for the hunt came from a student.

"They wanted a community harvest but they had no knowledge on how to get up there, and what the terrain was going to be like," Lennie said.

"So it was a perfect way to encourage knowledge sharing, and to provide meat to the entire school."

The six students — all boys, aged 16 to 18 — were teamed with six older hunters. (Inuvialuit Regional Corporation)

She said it all came together quickly.

"The idea came on Wednesday and we ran it … we decided to run it the next Monday. So then the boys went out on Monday to harvest," she said.

It was a cold day — around –27 C with the wind chill, Lennie said. They packed up some sandwiches and snacks for the six students and off they went.

The Porcupine caribou herd was not far from the community, so it was possible to do the excursion as a day-trip.

Some of the students had been hunting before, but Lennie said it was still a good learning experience for them.

'It was a perfect way to encourage knowledge sharing, and to provide meat to the entire school,' said organizer Megan Lennie, regional youth coordinator with the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation. (Submitted by Megan Lennie)

"We were explaining to them, you know, it's important to learn from different people so you could get a couple different tricks up your sleeve, and share that to your own family."

The group returned to town just as it was getting dark, Lennie recalled. She was waiting for them at her in-laws' house.

"It was kind of beautiful … we saw the lights of 10 skidoos coming down off the hill."

The next day, the harvested animals — six of them — were taken to the school to be skinned and butchered. Lots of people from the community, including parents and elders, came to watch and participate. Everyone went home with some meat.

The day after the hunt, students and other community members all helped with the skinning and butchering. (Inuvialuit Regional Corporation)

Archie missed that part, though — he was still worn out from the hunt. There wasn't a lot of snow yet on the land so the travel had been rough and exhausting.

"I was still at home sleeping, stiff and sore. That's why I didn't have a chance to get any skinning or butchering of the caribou," he said.

With files from Wanda McLeod

‘We need to do this as a community’: Abe Drennan celebrates pandemic resilience with ‘Unknown Road’


Inuvik singer-songwriter Abe Drennan remembers the fear that gripped him in the first weeks of the pandemic.

“I went out to buy groceries at Stanton for the first time since we shut down,” he remembers. “And I remember feeling a real fear that I have never felt before — I’ve felt fear before, but not like this. And it was going to the grocery store.”

“Whenever I feel something like that, something that powerful, I have to work it through it, through song and through writing.”

Almost two-and-a-half years later, that writing process turned out “Unknown Road,” a modern folk tune that reflects on the resilience of the Inuvik community in the face of pandemic adversity.

Gradually, the community was able to come back together as restrictions were lifted and life returned to normal. “Trying to see the light at the end of the tunnel was really hard sometimes, right?” says Drennan. “But when the mask mandates were lifted, and we could actually gather, I was like, ‘No, we need to do this as a community, we need to come together.'”

The accompanying video is also a tribute to Drennan’s home community: It opens with a shot of him walking across the ice road that connects Inuvik and Aklavik, and features shots of the inside of East Three Secondary School and a crowd of local students.

At the climax of the video, “When the community joined me on the walk down the road, it was the opportunity to symbolize that, here we are, having come out of this horrific experience,” says Drennan. “And here we are back together again. And it was a reason to celebrate.”

Drennan, who is also a teacher, won this year’s Fan’s Choice award at the NWT Music Awards. “Unknown Road” is part of a planned new EP that should be released sometime next spring. A new Christmas song, “Light of the Season,” will also be released on Dec. 17.

“Unknown Road” and its accompanying music video are now available to stream on YouTube. The single is also available to stream on Apple and Spotify.

Grade 9 teacher in Inuvik is Sport North's Coach of the Year

Grade 9 teacher in Inuvik is Sport North's Coach of the Year

'When you hear from teenagers that they appreciate you ... it kind of makes it all worth it'

A young basketball team with two coaches on either side pose for a photo.
The East Three Secondary School boys' basketball team from Inuvik, N.W.T. Stephanie Parkes, on far left, says she's coached this group of boys for about six years. (Submitted by Stephanie Parkes)

Stephanie Parkes didn't previously play basketball.

But recently, she was named coach of the year by Sport North, in honour of her efforts coaching the boys' basketball team at a school in Inuvik, N.W.T.

"I was shocked," she said. "Honoured. It's nice to have the recognition."

Sport North aims to develop and promote amateur sport in the Northwest Territories. It's responsible for providing programs and services for organized sport throughout the territory.

Parkes teaches Grade 9 math and is the boys' basketball coach at East Three Secondary School.

She said her journey into coaching began around 2008 when a friend needed her help chaperoning. It was a chance for her to hang out with the kids outside of the classroom setting — and she loved the experience..

"I see the kids a lot in the building. But it was really nice to get out of the school, make connections with the kids. Some of the students that maybe struggle academically — you really get to see a different side of them," Parkes said.

"You get to see them shine. I just fell in love with it."

A women crouches down to speak with boys sitting on chairs wearing basketball gear.
Parkes seen from behind, speaking with the boys basketball team she coaches in Inuvik. She says it's more than just coaching — Parkes offers guidance, leadership and a safe place for the kids. (Submitted by Stephanie Parkes)

For the last six or seven years, she's stuck with the same group of kids, who are now in Grade 12.

"It's been a journey for sure," she said. "A lot goes into coaching."

That includes five days a week in the gym, a lot of effort fundraising and travelling with the kids to Yellowknife.

"There's a lot to juggle," Parkes said. "It's time away from your own family. And my family has always been super supportive of me working outside of the house and chaperoning."

The time commitment, she said, pays off.

"We've had a pretty consistent team through the years. The kids are super dedicated," Parkes said.

"When you hear from teenagers that they appreciate you, and the things that you've done for their life, it kind of makes it all worth it."

'The long game'

The big reason she sticks with it, on top of her passion the kids, is to help promote staying in school.

"For some of our students, it's a reason for them to be in school, it helps to motivate them," she said of sport. "The ultimate goal here is graduation, right? So whatever we can do to help keep kids engaged in school, wanting to be there... we'll do what it takes."

While Parkes said she's seen the kids "through all the ups and the downs," she said she's confident "they're gonna get there."

A row of boys on a basketball team pose with a coach on either side. Many of the boys are holding up the number 6 with their fingers.
Parkes, left, poses with the boys basket ball team she coaches at the East Three Secondary School. (Submitted by Stephanie Parkes)

"It's always been about the long game," Parkes said. "Sport for me has always been about a way to motivate kids, you know, to show up and to do the best that they can do so that they can have these opportunities."

What was perhaps most touching about winning the award, to Parkes, was getting to read the written submissions sent in by the athletes she coaches.

"They were pretty special, pretty emotional," she said. "[I'm] very grateful."

Inuvik Drum Youth of the Week: Noah Cormier

Our Youth of the Week is Noah Cormier, seen here with RKV Bladesmith Rory Voudrach. Noah has been participating in an on-the-land school program with his father, learning traditional survival methods. After watching others working with an ulu, Noah decided he wanted one himself and has been operating a lemonade stand and collecting bottles for the past several months to save up. He finally got his blade at the Christmas Craft Fair Nov. 25 to 27. Photo courtesy of Kimberlly Walters