Sachigo Lake Fishermen Assisted by Canadian Rangers
SACHIGO LAKE – When two fishermen failed to return home to the small Oji-Cree community of Sachigo Lake after leaving on a day trip to set nets for sturgeon their disappearance led to a combined effort to find them.
The men – Samuel Tait and Joab Tait – were both experienced at living in the bush but had no overnight equipment with them.
Sachigo Lake, with no year-round road access and a population of about 450, is 650 kilometres north of Thunder Bay.
Concerned friends told the local detachment of the Nishnawbe Aski Police the men were overdue. The local police notifed the Ontario Provincial Police. The OPP asked the Canadian Army for assistance and the Canadian Ranger patrol in Sachigo Lake was authorized to organize a search.
The Rangers set up a command post in the band office and searched the community in the dark in case the men had returned. They checked local boats and went by boat to a portage point about eight kilometres from Sachigo Lake to check if they were stranded at it.
The area the men had gone to set their nets is a four-hour boat trip north of Sachigo Lake and rarely used by local people, only a few people are familiar with it, said Sergeant Jackson Beardy, commander of the Sachigo Lake Ranger patrol.
Two local men who knew the area well, Jason Smith and his uncle, Durwin Smith, volunteered to go and search for them. They quickly found the men heading slowing back to Sachigo Lake.
“With the water so low the two missing men had hit a rock and knocked out their propeller,” said Sergeant Beardy. “They’d set up a camp and spent the night in the bush. They’d carved out a wooden propeller they had put on and they were moving very slowly with it when they were found. Their aluminum boat was left behind and they were brought back to the community. We were more focused on rescuing them than recovering the boat.”
The men returned to Sachigo Lake as an Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources helicopter with two OPP officers aboard arrived at the community’s airport to refuel and join the search.
The successful recovery of the fishermen was an example of the partnerships often involved in rescue operations in small and remote indigenous communities in the Far North of Ontario, said Lieutenant-Colonel Matthew Richardson, the officer commanding the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group, which commands the 650 Canadian Rangers in 23 northern Ontario communities.
The search involved the local police, the OPP, the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Rangers, the co-operation of the community, which provided the band office for a command post, and two civilian volunteers with specialized local knowledge.
“It showed the Canadian Rangers using their training and ability to team up with members of the community and others to bring about a happy ending,” he said. “It involved a lot of people.”
(Sergeant Peter Moon is the public affairs ranger for the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at Canadian Forces Base Borden.)