The Northwest Territories is rich with epic and unexpected adventure. So are the backgrounds of the expert guides that lead travellers through this vast land.
Black Feather has offered guided tours of the NWT’s most iconic rivers for more than four decades. Here is the amazing story of Khoan Pham, one of their longtime guides:
It’s March 29, 1980.
Thirteen-year-old Khoan Pham arrives at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, one of the thousands of boat refugees to immigrate to Canada from Vietnam. Khoan grew up in a small village on the coast of South Vietnam and as conditions had deteriorated following the Vietnamese war, his family paid the requisite bribes so he could escape for a better life.
Khoan left his hometown in a 10-metre-long boat, which sailed for almost a week before landing in Malaysia. From the refugee camp in Malaysia, Fred Loosemore and I sponsored him through a Government of Ontario program to bring unattached minors to Canada. When Fred and I picked Khoan up at the airport, he spoke no English and had no possessions. We travelled home to Camp Kandalore, in central Ontario, stopping en route to buy snow boots, a warm jacket and to eat chicken dinner. It was Khoan’s first time using a knife and fork.
We got home in near dark and, since the camp road was unplowed, we had to walk one kilometre up a hill and over the snow to our cabin in the woods.
This was the start of a remarkable journey for Khoan. Since then, he has graduated from high school and university, worked at Trailhead outdoor store, become an accomplished paddler and cross-country skier, guided many Black Feather trips, married, and become father to two daughters.
Khoan adapted quickly to his new country. He has guided groups on the NWT’s Nahanni, Mountain and Coppermine rivers. He spent his honeymoon on the Mountain River. He is an excellent outdoor chef: his nickname in the kitchen is ‘Wok with Khoan.’ His eldest daughter, Hannah Pham, is currently guiding for Black Feather—sometimes with her dad. Hannah was one of the guides of Yellowknife’s Sir John Franklin High School’s Outdoor Excursion on the Nahanni River in 2019. Khoan’s youngest, Margaret, is at UBC and training with the Canadian women’s field hockey team.
Congratulations on so many wonderful accomplishments. We love you.
Owner of Black Feather