TV can’t compare with bush life, says Pelly artist

PELLY CROSSING When Frieda Alfred was growing up, she spent summers outdoors at her family’s fish camp.


When Frieda Alfred was growing up, she spent summers outdoors at her family’s fish camp.

But over the years, things have changed for the young in the small community of Pelly Crossing.

“We didn’t have lots of TV like the kids do now,” said Alfred, who is in her 40s.

“There were no streetlights and we had a two-room portable school.”

And to attend high school, Alfred had to board in Whitehorse.

“I didn’t like Whitehorse,” she said. “I was taken away from my family and had to leave my traditional values and the bush and all you learn from your parents.”

Now, Pelly students can attend high school right in the community at Eliza Van Bibber School.

“I think kids today are so fortunate,” said Alfred, who was as an education assistant at Van Bibber.

But after eight years of working with elementary school students, she wanted a change.

Now Alfred focuses largely on creating traditional crafts.

“I started sewing when I was eight years old,” she said.

And she started beading soon after.

Alfred’s mom, Audrey Trudeau, runs a craft store in Pelly, Audrey’s Creations. And Alfred frequently helps her out.

“You put me down in her little store and I could be there fiddling around, sorting beads forever — I’ve always liked beads,” she said.

“And I just learn on my own.”

Alfred taught herself how to make jewelry out of turquoise and silver.

And she’s starting to “fiddle around” with moose-hair tufting and with porcupine quills.

“Any kinds of crafts, if you show me something, I can do it,” she said.

Using homemade leather fresh off her mother’s trap line, Alfred still makes lots of slippers and mitts.

“I go out trapping and setting rabbit snares with my mom who’s in her 60s,” she said. “There’s nothing better than being out in the bush and it’s healthy for you.”

Alfred grew up trapping with her father, setting snares and cleaning hides.

In the summers, she would join her grandmother at the family fish camp, living in a tent in the bush and catching salmon in July.

“That’s why people were healthier in those days, living off traditional food and off the land,” she said.

“They’re not as healthy now that they don’t live off the land.

“The younger generation is more into TV which is a big change from a long time ago.

“I’m glad I wasn’t raised like that — I can’t sit and watch it all day.

“The young people need to go out on the land more.”

In Pelly, there’s plenty to do in the winter, besides trapping, she added.

These days one can enjoy ice hockey, curling, sewing classes and a woman’s wellness conference, she said.

And Alfred spends a lot of time in her mother’s store.

Audrey’s Creations was Trudeau’s birthday present from her second husband.

“I wish I could have a big birthday like that,” said Alfred.

“I would sit in my store all day long.” Trudeau also wrote a book on how to tan moose hide.

“I want to learn how to do this too,” said Alfred.

Audrey’s Creations is open year round, and will stay open as late as 11 p.m. to accommodate travelers.

“If we’re here, it’s open,” said Don Trudeau, Audrey’s husband.

“But it’s not a nine-to-five sort of thing.

“And I always tell visitors, bring your purple money,” he joked.