I began writing Vikings on a Prairie Ocean with a blackberry bringing to life the people and places I had known as a boy growing up in a fishing family on Lake Winnipeg. The laughter or tears those remembrances brought was like comfort food on long airplane rides returning home after long days working in the middle of complex dispute over resources, environment, or the land. I moved to a keyboard when the story started to grow into a history of Lake Winnipeg through the lens of my family’s engaging legacy of over a century of fishing on those waters since the arrival of the Icelandic settlers to its shores in 1875. Now this was taking on the form of a mission with a life of its own. I realized that this was becoming a “saga” including a journey of self-exploration about how the Lake and its Icelandic, Cree, and Ojibway fishermen and the communities and people on its shores had shaped and inspired my life and work. Once more Lake Winnipeg was at the center for the formative stage of my career tracked back to my first fifteen years as a lawyer for the Cree and Ojibway people indigenous to the lands along the mighty rivers to and from Lake Winnipeg impacted by hydro developments and mercury contamination in the 70′s and 80’s. Soon I found myself refocusing my professional lens to building processes for problems, not trying to squeeze the problem and the solution into a legal framework. I would leave law and start building what has become a complex career involving high profile public disputes, teaching, and writing. This has taken me too many places big and small across Canada’s land base and beyond, but wherever I have worked “my place in the world has always been grounded in people and fish, and that in the deepest sense of the word is home.”
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Click play to hear “New Iceland Saga” from the album Lake Winnipeg Fisherman by Sol Sigurdson.