‘I don’t want this to die out:’ King and Queen Trappers hope traditional survival skills carry on

King Trapper Richard Charles holds up his trophies during the awards ceremonies at the Alfred Jenkins Fieldhouse on Feb. 23, 2020. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

This year’s Prince Albert Winter Festival King and Queen Trapper had 17 participants from across the province showcasing their traditional survival skills.

The competition, separated into men’s and women’s categories, consisted of events such as snowshoe racing, log tossing, axe throwing, sled pulling and water boiling.

Some of the events, including the buckskin parade and animal calls, were judged by “the king of kings” Franklin Carriere. For the rest, time determined the winners.

Joan Carriere, Franklin’s daughter-in-law, said previously King and Queen Trapper competitors organized the event themselves. Since she’d been watching it for 32 years, she decided to step up.

“All of these events are from a way of life at one time. This is the trapper on the trap line, people living off the land and at some point they just made a competition out of it,” she said.

“When I did the biographies for most of these competitors, I always say to them ‘Where did you learn your skills?’ and it’s always from a father or a mother or an uncle or a grandfather. We’ve got generation competitors here.”

You might recognize the names of this year’s King Trapper Richard Charles and Queen Trapper Clarissa Burns—that’s because both of them also took home the first place trophies last year.

“You’ve got to battle your way back. The boys are good competition as always,” he said.

King Trapper Richard Charles gets his fire started during the water boiling event on Feb. 23, 2020. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

In his first few years of competing, Charles, who’s from Stanley Mission, said he wasn’t the strongest. But, as he competed more and more, he said he’s gotten better.

“Back in my hometown, there’s lots of kids watching, learning and we’d like to see that more. Kids come out and they’re starting to do lots of king and queen trapper events, junior trapper events, which is good. And there’s always a lot of people coming around, cheering.”

Similarly, Burns hopes people watching gain interest in learning survival skills.

“I like teaching the younger people how to do things, so then they’re not so scared and shy away. I don’t want this to die out and I hope to see it grow,” she said.

Burns has been competing for the Queen Trapper title since she was 14 years old. She’s now in her 40s.

However, this only her second year in the Prince Albert event because before that, the women’s competition didn’t exist.

Carriere said she decided to add the Queen Trapper after visiting winter festivals in northern communities.

“They always have queen contests, so I thought why not? Why not Prince Albert?” Questioned Carriere.

“We should be just as entitled to what they can do. We have skills and we have strengths too and they should also be displayed,” added Burns.

Clarissa Burns performs a jig to kick off the 2020 King and Queen Trapper at the Alfred Jenkins Fieldhouse on Feb. 22, 2020. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

The competition took place on Saturday and Sunday outside of the Alfred Jenkins Fieldhouse. There were 10 male competitors and seven female competitors.

Carriere said there’s 16 events for the men and 14 for the women, but each participant is only required to do seven. Some compete in all of them in hopes of getting more points.

In each event, the participants who place first to fifth get a certain amount of points. The one with the most points at the ends wins the king or queen trapper title.