Moose Factory Island, Ontario, Canada

By: Lloyd Mize

We boarded Polar Princess this morning and have traveled from Moosonee to James Bay and are now returning to visit Moose Factory Island before we return to Moosonee. Our tour of the Island is beginning.

Arriving at the dock on the island we walked a short distance to a school bus. Here too, the roads are all dirt. Our guide, Rachel*, told us a little about the island before she started the bus because she would be unable to talk over the noise. The hospital is heated by steam, along with the housing for the health care professionals. A diesel engine powers the steam machine connected to 6 inch pipes in the air delivering the steam to the hospital and staff housing. It reminded me of telephone and electric wires hanging on the poles.

This hospital serves communities up to 300 miles north, reduced from 600 in the past. The emergency medical technicians in Moosonee, although not MD's have to perform those services while a patient is transported from the mainland to the island hospital. Patients are transported on the river during the summer and the ice road during the winter. The months of freeze up and spring break up require a helicopter to transport a patient. There is a helipad near the hospital.

The spring can bring flooding to the island with residents tying canoes to their house in case the need to escape exists. When the Hudson Bay Company first established the island as their "New World" headquarters the employees built a church, the Anglican Church was built. It still exists but is locked, needing repairs. I would have enjoyed visiting the church.

After the church was built the spring flood came, lifting the church off its foundation. Not wanting to loose their house of worship the employees boarded their canoes, tied ropes to the building and pulled it back. This time they drilled holes in the floor to hold it. If there is a flood they can pull the plugs for the water to drain, saving the church. Plans are in place requesting it to be preserved as a Heritage Site. It is hoped that it will happen.

Our first stop was a Creek Interpretive Center. Several tepees were seen. The first was a summer one built out of birch bark. It would hold up to six family members. Another one was long enough for four families. Rocks lined a spot inside where cooking took place.

Another tepee is only used for cooking after one of the hunts. A meeting room appeared to be an open air tent of about 50 feet square. It was used for meetings, wedding and other community activities. The center had various animal skins like wolf, fox and moose, which were interesting. Leaving there we drove through residential areas. Rachel* pointed out the tepees in many backyards where the game is cooked after a hunt.

The house where the Hudson Bay staff resided was part of the tour. It consisted of several bedrooms, now the downstairs bedrooms are exhibits; a bedroom, tool room, the doctors room. All rooms had different historical items displayed from that era. A cemetery was nearby which I walked into but did not really investigate.

This tour was ending as we rode back to the dock. Back on the mainland we both received certificates indicating that we have "braved the spray of James Bay and been sprinkled with the salt of the arctic waters." It is dated and signed by the tour guide and captain, identified as "ye old tidewatcher" and the "ye old captain."

We went back to the bed and breakfast to just relax in comfort on their "community room" comfortable chairs, relaxing. About 4:30 we walked to the Catholic Church to view its stained glass windows, including the bishops, pope, Jesus, and a unique picture of a moose.

Then we walked to the train station, met up with our new friends, visited until 5:30 when we were able to board for the 5-hour return trip to Cochrane. Visiting with one of the attendants concluded the evening and the expedition to Moosonee.

* Name Changed

You have my permission to reprint and distribute this article as long as it is distributed in its entirety, including all links and copyright information. ? Lloyd Mize 2007

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