Cabin Radio’s 2021 year in photos

This year started with vaccine clinics in smaller NWT communities, saw severe flooding in the spring, welcomed the loosening of restrictions in the summer, and had a new road open to Whatì in the winter.

Weather records were broken, demonstrations over human rights injustices were held, and Covid-19 continued. This is an insufficient summary of the year, of course.

Plenty more happened, but we don’t have room for the thousands of photos we took in this story – so here’s a small sample that reflect this year in the Northwest Territories.

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A nurse explains the Covid-19 vaccine to a resident of Wekweètì. Meaghan Brackenbury/Cabin Radio

Wekweètì, January 13

The Tłı̨chǫ community of Wekweètì held its first Covid-19 vaccine clinic on January 13, inviting all eligible residents over the age of 18 to get inoculated against the coronavirus responsible for the disease. The fly-in community was one of the first in the territory and the Tłı̨chǫ region to receive the vaccine.

Jescinda Cullihall and Josh Powell on the Dettah ice road on their wedding day
Jescinda Cullihall and Josh Powell on the Dettah ice road on their wedding day. Photo: Vincent Ret

Yellowknife, February 6

Saturday, February 6 dipped to -45.4C without wind chill. An extreme cold warning had been issued. Jescinda Cullihall and Josh Powell awoke in Yellowknife on their wedding day to discover the capital of the Northwest Territories was enduring its coldest day in more than a decade.

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An ice circle on Tsu Lake, 100 km north of Fort Smith, in February 2021
An ice circle on Tsu Lake, 100 km north of Fort Smith, in February 2021. Photo: Karl Cox

Tsu Lake, February

A rotating circle of ice thought to be around 200 metres in diameter appeared on a lake north of Fort Smith – possibly the largest such circle ever documented. Ice circles are an unusual natural phenomenon whereby circular slabs of ice begin to spin in the middle of lakes and rivers, ordinarily sculpted by the force of nearby eddy currents.

Geologist Chris Pedersen holds a rock containing quartz and bastnaesite, a mineral that is the source of many rare earth elements
Geologist Chris Pedersen holds a rock containing quartz and bastnaesite, a mineral that is the source of many rare earth elements. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio

Nechalacho, April 19

Nechalacho, the NWT’s first new metals mine in decades, is 100 km east of Yellowknife and is the first Canadian producer of rare earth elements – minerals that, in small quantities, power key parts of vehicles (especially electric vehicles) and various green technologies. Its owners envisage a model of smaller-scale mining, Indigenous involvement, and environmental responsibility.

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Dr Kami Kandola speaks at a news conference on April 21, 2021
Dr Kami Kandola speaks at a news conference on April 21, 2021. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio

Yellowknife, April 21

This year marked the first full year of the Covid-19 pandemic. As the virus evolved, the NWT’s chief public health officer, Dr Kami Kandola, was at the forefront – attempting to offer reassurance, encourage vaccination, and update restrictions.

Wasted caribou spotted on Pump Lake on April 23. Photo: Environment and Natural Resources

Pump Lake, April 23

In a Facebook post, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) shared a photo of wasted caribou spotted on Pump Lake near Aklavik – not the first time such an incident was reported in 2021. Ken Kyikavichik, the Grand Chief of the Gwich’in Tribal Council, said “irresponsible harvesters” should be reported. Population figures published in December indicate some herds, like the Bathurst caribou, continue to decline in numbers, while other herds have seen small increases.

Flooding in Fort Simpson on May 8, 2021
Flooding in Fort Simpson on May 8, 2021. Photo: Jonathan Antoine

Fort Simpson, May 8

Communities in the NWT’s Dehcho region experienced severe flooding this spring. Damage to Fort Simpson, pictured, is estimated to cost well over $5 million. Jean Marie River was completely evacuated, Hay River’s Vale Island residents were ordered to evacuate, and a state of emergency was delcared in Fort Good Hope due to flooding.

Children’s shoes and stuffed animals were placed on the steps of St. Joseph’s Cathedral Parish in Fort Smith in memory of the children who died at residential schools and whose deaths were undocumented. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio

Fort Smith, June 19

In May, Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation in BC announced the bodies of 215 children had been found buried at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School site. Since then, First Nations across the country have discovered more children buried in unmarked graves. In memory of these children who never came home, shoes and stuffed animals were left on the steps of churches and sites of residential schools.

Main stage at Folk on the Rocks 2021. Sarah Pruys/ Cabin Radio.
The Dene Drummers and the Jerry Cans perform together on the main stage at Folk on the Rocks 2021. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio

Yellowknife, July 18

The three-day Folk on the Rocks festival in Yellowknife was the territory’s first major in-person event since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Thousands of people attended the site over the weekend – and no Covid-19 cases were connected to the event.

Kyla LeSage stands on a ladder to work on a mural. Meaghan Brackenbury/Cabin Radio

Yellowknife, August

Artists of all ages and backgrounds spent hours each day in tents beside the Yellowknife Fieldhouse in August, sketching images onto large wood panels before bringing the pieces to life with paint. The Strong People, Strong Communities mural-painting festival showcased Indigenous strength through a series of murals which have since been installed in Yellowknife, Dettah, and Ndilǫ.

Messages painted on the sidewalk outside the proposed location for a temporary day shelter. Emily Blake/Cabin Radio

Yellowknife, October 4

Health minister Julie Green said her government planned to convert the former Legion building – on the corner of Franklin Avenue and 48 Street – into a day shelter this winter. In an open letter, she asked residents not to impede the planned facility by appealing against it, which they immediately did. The temporary shelter ultimately didn’t go ahead in the Aurora Village downtown location, and instead opened on the site of Yellowknife’s former visitors’ centre in December.

An aerial view of Saturday's Inuvik fire
A fire at Inuvik’s warming shelter on November 27, 2021. Photo: Kristian Binder

Inuvik, November 27

Inuvik’s fire chief said back-to-back fires at the town’s warming shelter were not suspicious in nature. Within two days, NWT’s housing and homelessness minister said the search has begun for government buildings that can act as shelters. Until a suitable location is found, people who would normally use that shelter are able to use a separate shelter on Berger Street.

Highway 9, connecting Whatì to Highway 3. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio

Whatì, November 30

Highway 9, connecting Whatì to Highway 3, opened to traffic on November 30. Previously, travel to and from Whatì – home to around 530 people – was restricted to flights or a winter ice road. The community hopes the road will create opportunities and lower the cost of living.

A Korean attack helicopter prototype is removed from an Antonov An-124 aircraft. Stephen Fochuk for Cabin Radio

Yellowknife, December 5

One of the world’s largest cargo aircraft landed in Yellowknife on December 5, carrying a South Korean attack helicopter that will undergo 10 weeks of winter testing around the city. The arrival of the helicopter is considered a boon for the city’s economy. The territorial government forecasts a $2-million injection of capital to hotels, restaurants, and related industries from some 40 pilots, engineers, and support staff over two months.