I met Charles Learjaw in Tadoule Lake in the summer of 2001. This settlement is located 250 kilometers west of Churchill and home to approximately 300 on reserve Sayisi Dene.

Charles understood little English so we communicated through his son, Alex. Charlie was born and raised in the wilderness around Tadoule Lake and in that vast land of lakes and tundra he hunted, fished and trapped. In the 1950's Charlie and his friends returned from hunting one day to his community at Duck Lake. They boarded a plane and were flown to Churchill. Along with several others, Charlie was able to find work but for many the sudden relocation to an urban setting contributed to many social and cultural problems. Eventually the Sayisi Dene moved back to the land at Tadoule Lake.

Charles loved his life. He was able to support his family while enjoying the freedom to travel and hunt with no outside interference. That was taken away for a period of time and Charlie along with many other Sayisi Dene had a mistrust of the white man. He overcame his initial reluctance to speak and I enjoyed several hours listening to him talk of his life. Charles Learjaw passed away in December, 2001 at the age of 90.

Back to Portrait Gallery

Charles Learjaw
Sayisi Dene, Tadoule Lake
Image size: 15 x 20 inches
Edition size: 975