I heard that sentence from a long time Yellowknifer during my second week up here. I told him that I came here just for one year, to experience all the seasons in the sub-arctic region. He nodded and smiled, then started telling me stories of others who came here just for a certain amount of time. Some of them planned to spend a year up north, others one summer, or even just two weeks….
several decades later many of them are still here. So he warned me not to drink the tap water, if I really wanted to leave Yellowknife in a year. It is believed that there is something in the water, some kind of northern bacteria. He told me that a little bit too late. I had already drank Yellowknife tap water. But at that time I strongly believed that my one year long visa and the Canadian immigration restrictions would have a bigger impact on the length of my stay than some silly superstition. Well, obviously I was wrong!
Yellowknife is full of these kinds of stories. Most of the people here are from somewhere else and everyone has a unique story to tell. When you meet someone for the first time, you will hear/ask two questions: “Where are you from?” and “what brought you to Yellowknife?” (BTW repeating it over and over again was an excellent way to polish my English. Their not so frequently asked questions to follow may not have been answered as smoothly). One of my friends came here when she was driving Canada coast to coast. There was a single road going up north on the map. She decided to check it out and see where it went. A month later she was driving the same road again, this time with all her belongings.
There are also people who grew up in Yellowknife, and their stories are no less interesting. It is amazing to listen to old Yellowknifers. Their stories about the city, which developed from the tent town in ’30s, with no road connection to the rest of the country. How it was centered around gold mines and a very vivid old town community and how it expanded more and more to its size today . Listening to these stories may lead you to the conclusion, that progress it is not necessary always a good thing.
There are also those who, for the question how long they have to been in Yellowknife, will answer “for a thousand of years”. They call themselves Dene, which in the Athapascan language means people. They are the ones who combine city life with living on the land, using their ancestors’ knowledge. Their influence can be seen an felt throughout the community and in the soul of the city.