| Robert was born in 1940 at Suwanne Lake, southwest of Leaf Rapids, to Martha and Louis Baker. Robert, the oldest living, had 17 siblings. Louis packed up his family and moved to South Indian Lake when Robert was a young boy, because the trapping was better.
At age 12 Robert began accompanying his father on the trap line. After 5 years of schooling, Robert, now 17, quit so he could trap full time. Robert said that, “trapping and fishing were the only ways to make a living in those days.” In 1962 Robert married Helen, also from South Indian Lake. The couple had 11 children.
In the 1970’s S.I.L. experienced flooding from the hydroelectric dam built. Robert recalled, “Brochet and South Indian Lake were known for their economic stability but after the flood and the subsequent loss of trapping, the mainstay of the community, South Indian Lake’s reliance on welfare increased dramatically. The fishermen had taken 1 million pounds of fish out of S.I.L. before the flood, now almost nothing.”
I discovered years ago that people like Robert have a deep, visceral love of the land and that love remains, despite the hazards, even when little money can be made. His daughter, Josephine, agrees, “My father has been trapping and fishing for most of his life. He has lost many loved ones to the lake and the hard living of the north. The land is what keeps him going, it heals him — to stand and be there for his family.” Robert stated, “Like my father, I made my livelihood from mother earth. I didn’t make millions, but I survived.”