Photo of Eileen WilsonEileen Wilson was born in Aklavik, N.W.T., just north of the Arctic Circle (Photo: Claudine Kirby)

North of 60

From fear to faith in the Northwest Territories.

March 10, 2017 by Eileen J. Wilson


I was born in Aklavik, N.W.T., just north of the Arctic Circle. We lived on the land—animals provided our food and clothing. In the summer, we fished and picked berries. In the winter, when the temperature dropped to -40 C, we trapped. I often went to check the traps with my dad. My other chores included collecting wood and water from the river, first chopping a hole in the ice. At night, when it was cold and clear, the Aurora Borealis flashed across the sky.

I’m one of eight children. I learned the Gwich’in language from my grandmother, but didn’t speak it around my mother. She was forbidden to speak her language at residential school and punished if she did.

In 1957, when I was nine years old, my dad died of a heart attack and the next day, my grandmother, to whom I was very close, also died. Shortly after this, my mother went back into the hospital to be treated for tuberculosis. Five of my siblings and I were put into residential school. It wasn’t pleasant. I was taught not to look at people when talking to them.

When my mother died, I felt so alone. I went into the bedroom, got on my knees and asked God to help me.

After finishing school, I studied practical nursing in Calgary and worked in a hospital for a few years. I married and had four children.

Then one day, my mother was diagnosed with cancer and given 18 months to live. When she died, I felt so alone. I went into the bedroom, got on my knees and asked God to help me. I started going to church regularly.

After my relationship ended, I felt God guiding me back to the Northwest Territories. He showed me that he was in control and would always be with me. I was full of joy and got baptized.

Eventually, I remarried and had two more children. We lived in Yellowknife, where my boys asked if we could attend The Salvation Army. We were very happy there. In 2003, we moved to Whitehorse and continued going to the Army.

In 2010, I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and warned that I would have a heart attack. This scared me, as my father had died of a heart attack. I prayed about my fears and asked God to help me live with the uncertainty.

About four months later, I went to Vancouver for testing. A specialist told me that I would be on medication for the rest of my life. But when the test results came in, the report said my heart was normal. There was no damage! The specialist looked at the report and didn’t say anything.

Ten months later, I returned to the same specialist. He told me there was nothing wrong with my heart and took me off all the medication. He seemed surprised, but I know God healed me.

Today, I’m still in good health. I work full time at The Salvation Army adult resource centre in Whitehorse. I am busy with family and friends, I volunteer and I attend church. I give God thanks for always looking after me.

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