Land survival important
Elder shares thoughts and coffee

Glen Korstrom
Northern News Services

NNSL (Sep 25/98) - Whether the coffee beans are picked in Guatemala or whether they are roasted in the traditional Italian style means little to Colin Amos.

At least the drink is alcohol-free.

The 68-year-old Inuvialuit elder and Inuvik founder says alcohol contributed to the deaths of his four brothers: Michael, Harry, Roy and Donald.

Even for himself, Amos says there was a time not too long ago when he was staggering drunk on Inuvik streets, sometimes going without sleep for two days straight on a drinking binge before passing out.

Part of what precipitated Amos's heavy drinking was the break up of his marriage in the late 1970s. That hurled him into a bout of depression.

Though Amos still goes to the Mad Trapper because he likes "his people," he drinks coffee there. The limitation does not prevent him from having a good time.

Amos and his ex-wife have seven children: Jeffrey, Joey, Rickey, Troy, Rona, Tracey and Tania. And Amos lives with Troy today.

Still, it is the memories of dark years which spur Amos to stress the need for youth to develop traditional survival skills.

"I remember my dad saying 'I did it one time. It was very tough to make a living off the land. I want you to know how we survived without getting any assistance from anywhere,'" Amos says of his dad Amos Tuma.

"He said, 'This is the way it's going to be.' I said, 'Are you going to teach me?' and he said, 'I will but it's not going to be easy.'"

Amos took those land skills he learned from Tuma and throughout the 1950s, Amos says he caught many muskrat.

But at 10 cents per pelt, Amos decided "I can't make a living. I've got to do something (else.)"

In the 1960s, Amos became a janitor at SAM school.

After recovering from the depression that followed the break up of his marriage and heavy alcohol consumption, Amos got his life back on track in the 1980s with a job as a camp attendant for Esso.

And now, even though Amos stresses the importance for today's youth to learn basic land survival skills such as how to set a trap and how to get water, Amos also says structured education is important to help land a well-paying job.