Trapping Culture


While many workers at the Harbours Board and railway headed back south for the winter, several men headed out on the land to trap for the winter.

Much of this traffic came and went from the Churchill Hudson’s Bay Company Post and T. Riddoch’s Post, an independent trader, both set up on the west side of the Churchill River. Riddoch would keep a list of trappers out on the land, checking their names as they came back in the spring or around Christmas. Today, the Hudson Bay Quest starts across the river from Riddoch’s, the trail coming up on the west shore near where his post once stood.

There was another Hudson’s Bay Company post up at Nunalla, the halfway point between Churchill and Arviat, at that time a Roman Catholic mission. Inland from Arviat, another post at Maguse River was operated by Oscar and Palmi Sigurdson, two trappers based out of the Churchill area.

Maguse River is inland from present-day Arviat, but back in those days was the closest point to reach the Padlirmiut, the Inuit living and trapping in that area. It was a post used both by the Inuit in their traditional lands and the trappers operating along the future border of Nunavut and Manitoba. It was a bustling place in those days, with the Philip Kigusiutnak, the eldest musher competing in the Quest, grew up at Maguse River.

South from Maguse River, the next post was Nunalla. Originally established by the Hudson’s Bay Company in the 1920s, its aim was to tap into the Inuit trade of arctic foxes. Throughout the winter, dog teams would visit to trade; in the summer, the Inuit would travel south by kayak while HBC supply schooners would arrive from the south. It was on the HBC ship, Fort Severn, that Ed Batstone discovered Nunalla. Each summer after that, he and his dogs would be dropped off on the last ship of the year.

Eventually, Ed would take over Nunalla and use it as a base from which to trap along the coast of Hudson Bay. He would travel this route by dogteam regularly, sometimes just coming down to Churchill for the Christmas square dance. It seems he was known as much as a good dancers as he was a hard-nosed trapper.

Trappers were a different breed, some of them, such as Eddie Batstone, travelling a hundred miles or so to return to Churchill just for the Christmas dance, Others like Dave Lundie, were known to turn and travel for a day or two to catch up with another trapper just to have tea and a chat.

In the winter, free traders such as Thomas Riddoch and Oscar Sigurdson would travel north to supply the trap lines and Inuit.


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