Cathy McGinnis: A Life On The Land

Born on the trapline of the mighty Athabasca River in the dead of winter in 1946, Cathy McGinnis (nee Lacaille) was made of all toughest and most beautiful elements of this northern land.

Cathy was raised on the trapline near the historical Embarras Portage Trading Post with a traditional Métis trapper family.

Her parents were kind and loving people who built up a sense of responsibility and confidence by tasking the family of 10 children with different jobs around the trapline—checking fishing nets and traps, maintaining the family home and boat, picking berries to make jams and preserves, skinning and butchering moose and other animals, and cutting wood—which was a family affair.

During her life, Cathy’s education and career brought her off the land as she dedicated herself to helping others. She worked tirelessly as a social worker, a probation officer, and even as a guard at a youth prison. Cathy had a special affinity for working with children and youth, always aiming to make a positive impact in their lives. Her compassionate nature and nurturing spirit touched the lives of many.

Cathy gratefully retired to return to the land she loved so dearly. She worked the family trapline once again fearlessly checking the traps, hunting, and harvesting, unafraid of the wildlife that surrounded her. Cathy adored the sound of a campfire, cooking her family a meal with wild meat she hunted herself, and living peacefully amongst the bush. On one visit from the Wood Buffalo Park Warden, he let her know with admiration that she was the only female trapper living and working on the trapline in the park during that time.

Resourceful. Methodical. Strong. Tough. Full of heart. Kind. Compassionate. Storyteller. Warmth in her voice and laughter, all characteristics that would describe Cathy by those who met her and loved her. She passed peacefully on January 27th, 2023, leaving behind a legacy brimming with stories and love of the land amongst her children and family. The family and community will continue to learn from her experiences for many generations to come.

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Lacaille/McGinnis Families
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