As we ventured through Yellowknife, it had the allure of a traveler town, yet with much local heritage. A town of anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000, depending on the season. The square miles of the Northwest Territories are twice the size of Texas, yet there are just over 40,000 people. They share many of the same supply chains for importing. Trappers, miners, and people of the native communities all rely on Yellowknife as a source for much of their live’s necessities. As one might imagine, this makes this massive body of land and wilderness quite small when it comes to it being a single large community.
The collective landmass of the Territories combined (Yukon, NWT, Nunavut) rivals the size of the United States, yet their population is just over 100,000 people. It seems this contributes to the "small world" feel of the Territories. We were driving with one of our customers on a Friday and we happened to catch a weekly tradition on Inuvik CBC radio. Each Friday people call in from all over the Territories to give a "hello" to whoever is listening. There were callers who were thousands of miles from their family and they gave personal updates on happenings in their family, and sending well wishes via one way radio. It was personal and intriguing.
We have enjoyed continuing to grow our understanding of this small, massive world. The sled needs are definite as we are the last of the traditional wood toboggan makers, and plastic and other man made sleds simply can't withstand the elements. But during this trip we were also looking for new ways to add value in these relationships. The hardest part is to build trust in any relationship. Given that we have a standing relationship, we spent much of this trip exploring new products and ways to serve, and also adding the inherent value that comes from understanding the others world.
Being small town folk at heart, we gravitate towards the welcoming nature of communities not accustomed to seeing hundreds of thousands of people in their weeks -- the grocer who saw us drop money and chased us down, the flight attendant who allowed us to carry everything onto a full flight so we wouldn’t miss our connection to the Arctic; the genuine respect that most seem to extend to a stranger. While thousands of miles away from our families, we had a comforting sense of home.