Spending 10 days out on the ice, camping in the backwoods, or roughing it in the wilderness with few creature comforts might sound to some like life in a different time.
But for Mike Lowe of Hay River, it’s a sporadic reality.
Five months ago, the 30-year-old decided to share images and stories from his experiences on the job, living a life that most only hear about.
Lowe works as a technical advisor for the Deh Cho First Nations.
Part of his job involves travelling to remote communities and working with those still practising traditional ways of life, hunting and fishing. In those communities, he teaches aquatic and wildlife resource management.
That means long stretches of time out on the land with nothing but the people that surround him, his camera and his notebook.
“There’s a reality of living in the North that makes you realize you live on a planet that wasn’t always filled with technology,” he said. “In the bush, you don’t always have a laptop or an iPhone to tell you where you are and what you should be doing.”
Lowe has many stories, images and recollections of his experiences, and he wanted to share these unique northern accounts. About five months ago, he began posting to a blog he created – descriptions and details of his travels and the people he meets and the ways of life very seldom seen, along with photos. The images he captures are as crisp as his memories of them, such as a hunter trudging through thigh-deep snow and a recently-killed caribou.
One of his first trips he remembers vividly. He travelled to Willow Lake near Fort Providence on a 150-km snowmobile ride to spend more than 10 days in -35 degree Celsius temperatures. Along with his duties, he took part in the lifestyle – stacking wood, hunting and keeping warm.
“A lot of people don’t realize that this way of life is still happening,” said Lowe. “You’re pulling a 30-pound trout out of crystal clear water that you can see for metres down. You have every element mixing in and you realize how lucky you are to be out there.”
Coming from an artistic family, which has for three generations been engaged in crafting, drawing, glasswork and photography, Lowe felt the pressure to explore his own creativity and to mix it with his roots.
Lowe also began hunting and trapping at a young age with his father. And he proudly identifies as Hay River Metis from his maternal side.
“The Slavey people in the area taught my father a lot about hunting and trapping, on top of what he already knew from living in northern Manitoba,” said Lowe. “Not a lot of people get that first-hand experience.”
Going to school to become a biologist, Lowe got into the scientific stuff. But when he began working with people during summer internships, he found he had more of an aptitude for working with communities. He’s been performing fieldwork steadily for the past three years.
Lowe is planning to temporarily return to school down south to attend an environmental management program.
Eventually, he would like to set up his own company, placing an emphasis on northern living.
Lowe recently returned from a trip to Peru with his girlfriend, not so displeased to flee the sun and heat for a chilly -30 degrees.
“I had no problem coming back and jumping into my ski pants,” he said. “I’ve always said I’ll always live in the North. I’ve lived other places before, but I always come back.”
by Angele Cano