This July, Trails in Tandem joined an adventurous team of Sahtu hikers on an epic journey along the Canol Heritage Trail: a stunning sub-arctic landscape in the heart of the Northwest Territories. Starting at Mile 40 of the trail, the expedition team hiked their way through some of the most remote wilderness in Canada to the mighty Mackenzie River, tracing the history of Mountain Indians, World War 2 pipeline workers, and community stewards en route.
The Canol Heritage Trail
Nestled on the perimeter of the Sahtu region in the heart of traditional Mountain Indian land, the Canol Heritage Trail of the Northwest Territories is a 355km rugged alpine path that weaves it's way through rivers and thicket deep within the breathtaking Mackenzie Mountains. Originally established in 1942 to transport oil from Norman Wells to Whitehorse, the Canol Pipeline and Trail was built in two years by over 20,000 men and women during the Second World War.
However after only a year of use the pipeline and trail were abandoned. Nowadays the route is frequented by wandering hikers, dall sheep and grizzly bears. Due to it's remoteness and length, the Canol is considered to be one of the most difficult trails to complete in Canada. The breathtaking mountain vistas and dramatic canyons of the Canol form an essential component of the Northern Canadian wilderness.
The trail, mountain chain and neighbouring communities are part of a region in the Northwest Territories known as the Sahtu. The Sahtu is home to the Hard Dene, Bear Lake Dene, Mountain Dene (Shita Got’ine), Ɂehdzo Got'ı̨nes First Nations, and Métis groups. With it's wartime history and modern day use the Canol Heritage Trail is a fascinating representation of the regions history and culture.
the 2017 Canol Trail youth Leadership hike
In its 12th year, the Canol Trail Youth Leadership Hike is a Sahtu-based community initiative that supports Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth in completing a section of the rugged trail. Doing so alongside local leaders and elders the hike is an opportunity for the youth to challenge themselves, reconnect with their land and strengthen their culture through. Co-managed by the Norman Wells Recreation Officer and the Fort Norman Métis Land Corporation, this hike is an example of what is possible when Indigenous leadership is given the room and resources to grow.
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Trails in Tandem documented this years Canol Youth Leadership Hike as part of a captivating suite of multimedia, which will be distributed online, at community events and at film festivals. A first in the programs history, the documentary will be a dynamic visual time capsule that tells the story of the leadership hike participants, the trail and pipelines significance throughout history, and conservation initiatives by local Indigenous people in the maintenance and protection of the trail for future generations
Given the regions diversity and the partnerships made on the trail, the film will also explore how natural spaces can act as platforms for cross-cultural dialogue in a changing world. Through this rich visual celebration of the Canol Trail Youth Leadership Hike’s legacy we hope to showcase the power of shared experiences in nature, the rich and diverse history of Indigenous peoples in the Sahtu, and the importance of the Canol Heritage Trail's past, present and future.