Polar Bears of Churchill

Thinking about the polar bear season in Churchill on this warm day in Colorado. Here are some of my favorite polar bear images from the years to get you all excited about next fall in Churchill! Before we know it polar bears will begin to congregate in Churchill and soon the temperatures will bring snow to the tundra. What a time to visit these amazing creatures of the north!

polar bear in Churchill

Pensive polar bear in the Churchill willows. GWB photo.


Churchill polar bear

“Oh no, not another photo.” Polar bear in the snow. Jodi Grosbrink photo.


Polar bear in Churchill

Polar bear up close and personal in Churchill. Mike Shron photo.


polar bear in Churchill

A polar bear lurks cautiously in the rocks near Churchill. Alex De Vries – Magnifico photo.


polar bear family churchill

A polar bear family sleeps in the sun near the Hudson Bay in Churchill. Don Walkoski photo.

Churchill Aurora Images – Andre Brandt

Photographer Andre Brandt continues to find new possibilities for capturing the alluring northern lights of Churchill and the surrounding region! We are constantly amazed at the diversity Andre brings to his photography and different viewpoints from which northern lights, especially, are presented to the world. It takes hard work, patience, and perseverance to continue to find new shots of the aurora borealis of the north! Enjoy.

Churchill Video of the Week – Churchill Summer Birding

Birding and Churchill go hand in hand! If you have ever been to Churchill in the spring or summer you must like birds to some extent. Churchill boasts nearly 200 species of mostly migratory birds during these seasons and many of these are “lifers” for serious bird enthusiasts. This video by Sparky Stensaas (www.thesparkygroup@gmail.com.) from a recent trip to Churchill highlights some of the incredible avian species even a casual birder can see while exploring the diverse landscape of Churchill! Natural Habitat Adventures guide Bonnie Chartier is one of the authorities on Churchill birding. You might see her in the willows if you venture to Churchill at some point.

Churchill Dene Treasure – Caroline Bjorklund

Caroline Bjorklund

Caroline speaks about the Dene culture in the region. Kim Clune photo.

Caroline Bjorklund was a Dene Elder and inspirational cultural speaker living in Churchill. She survived the Dene government relocation of the 1950’s and lived a life trying to keep the Dene culture and history alive through cultural presentations to tour groups and local institutions. Natural Habitat Adventures client/traveler and photographer Kim Clune captured this wonderful perspective of Caroline last fall in Churchill. Caroline passed away last week and will be remembered in all of our hearts for eternity.

One night, after scouting polar bears on the tundra, our group huddled around a table filled with items from native cultural history. Caroline Bjorklund opened her talk with a profound statement slid in-between some caribou facts.

“I finally started learning who I am. It’s hard. Especially when you’ve lost your language, your culture and your elders.”

Caroline’s story was like listening to two intertwined narratives, one a hunting documentary and the other a memoir of personal trauma. Both were woven into a found poetry that took some reflection to decipher.

Caroline and her two young brothers were ripped from their parents at a tender age. Terrified and screaming, she was forced into a helicopter and then a school where she was separated from her brothers and punished for speaking her own language. She never saw her family and was never taught the Dene (said Den-neh) culture, Dene being the tribe from which she came.

I had read about such things before, but here was a survivor, clearly marred by such horrific events, telling me her personal account.

Caroline’s parents, like many Dene, were likely moved to uninhabitable land after being told to abandon their means for survival, including canoes, tools, dogs and sleds. Many native tribes were told that these items would be later returned. They never were.

“Then alcohol was introduced and the people forgot who they were,” she said.

After burying so much of her own painful disconnect in alcohol for years, Caroline embraced sobriety and finally began to heal her heart and recapture her identity by learning tribal ways.

She told us about the Caribou once used by her family for food, clothing, sinewy fishing nets, and how no portion of the animal was wasted. She even learned to make a child’s game from boiling a caribou foot and stringing together the knuckles.These acts are not second nature and the ingredients not readily available, as they were for her parents. It took investigative work to unearth a way of Dene life that has been intentionally stripped from her and decimated.

Caroline’s mother and sister persuaded her to learn traditional beading, which she resisted taking up until recently. You’d never know it. To see her first work on a pair of mitts shows the attention she pays to detail and the care with which she makes each stitch. It’s as if she’s making up for lost time with precise intent.


Beadwork and leatherwork of Caroline’s coveted mitts. Kim Clune photo.

She has also learned about tribal medicine, spruce tree gum for disinfection and dwarf Labrador tea for flu-like symptoms. Her brother tricked her into drinking it once. It tasted terrible. The expression on her face as she told the story led to a genuine chuckle at this prank. Sibling shenanigans must be cherished after so much disconnect. But who am I to guess? I can’t even comprehend how lonely her life must have been.

One on one, after her talk, I asked Caroline when she was reunited with her brother, the one who convinced her to drink the tea.

She and her young brother were never reunited. Nor was she with her biological mother. She speaks of other tribe members as sister and brother. Elders are mother and granny. She calls them all teachers and family and cherishes each one, but none are the people she was born to.


Caroline Bjorklund

Nat Hab guide Kurt Johnson and Caroline presiding over another amazing Dene cultural talk.Kim Clune photo.

What Caroline made so evident to me, somebody who knows only the textbook history is that this history is still very much alive and the story continues. Caroline is my sister, my mother, my granny, showing me that we can and must do better as human beings.

Sharing her most precious vulnerability, Caroline’s story is riddled with tangents. Speaking of these torments, again and again, causes her pain. Some talks are quite emotional, others more detached due to the fatigue of reliving her history. Regardless of the personal cost, she continues to educate on the very personal impact of inhumane policy and practice so that such atrocities never happen again.

Caroline is a true hero, spinning her suffering into harsh but necessary education. THIS is what I celebrated last Thanksgiving, as our own Native Americans continue to fight for their land and rights.

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