August 27th, 2012 | By Candice Hong | Filed in AK NEWS, AK PRODUCTS & SERVICES, Arctic Animals, Client Reports, FEATURED, Featured Trip, INUIT, Inuit Culture/Art, Recent Trips, SCIENCE, TRIPS, Trips
Travel journalist Liz Fleming joined the Arctic Kingdom team for the polar bear and narwhal safari north of Pond Inlet in Sirmilik National Park in June. Her blog posts give a day-by-day look at life on the ice, 80 kilometers from anywhere.
The day began with flights, from Ottawa to Iqaluit, then north to Pond Inlet. Though First Air proved to be a happy surprise – I’d been expecting only very basic service and a potentially bumpy ride. It’s hard to believe a small airline like First Air provides the kind of service they do – hot meals, friendly
attendants, blanket and pillows. Air Canada – take a lesson!
In the Iqaluit airport, I spotted some other members of our group and introduced myself to Cornelius, Justin and Jens. I’m not gifted with great detective skills – they were easy to spot and so was I. Grinning from ear to ear, wearing coats way too bulky for the airport and wheeling duffel bags straining their zippers
– we were stoked and it was obvious!
We boarded the plane and filled most of the seats. I sat next to a petite Inuit woman named Martha on her way home to Pond Inlet after having been in Ottawa
for surgery. After a bit of where-are-you-from-and-what-do-you-do conversation, I learned Martha – four years my junior – was already the
grandmother of three. She was sorry to hear that my young sons haven’t yet given me any grandchildren. “Maybe soon,” she smiled, while I fervently
hoped they’d take their time!
After a moment’s silence, Martha asked, “You’re a southerner. Do you think seal hunting’s wrong?”
Before I could even process the idea that I’m a ‘southerner’ (my Florida friends would think that was a riot, I’m sure) Martha continued.
“I read an article in the newspaper in Ottawa about Inuit ‘slaughtering’ seals. That’s not right. We don’t slaughter them. We take only what we need and we use everything. We have to hunt to feed our families.” She paused and gestured to the vast frozen landscape below. “Look out there. I can’t grow anything on that land and the food in the stores in Pond Inlet is too expensive to buy much. If southerners don’t want us to hunt – what
should we feed our families?”
I didn’t have any answers but could sense my worldview was in for a good shakeup.
We arrived at the airport in Pond Inlet to be greeted by Mike Beedell who’d come to collect us, and our mountain of luggage. Mike’s a bearded ball of craziness – alternately cracking jokes, singing snatches of old rock and roll, sharing fascinating nature factoids, and telling the kind of stories of his travels in the wild that make you realize that you’ve found a latter day Daniel Boone.
Having stuffed the little hotel bus to bursting, we made the five-minute trek to our lodge. After sorting out room keys in the lobby, Mike announced that we’d meet for dinner at 6pm so we hustled to toss bags into rooms and wrestled with the sketchy wifi to send messages home. We’d arrived.
The evening included a walk to the local cultural association building for an evening of dancing, singing and displays of strength by some truly talented local Inuit performers. Throat-singers explained the jokingly competitive aspect of their eerie performance while young athletes kicked and
wrestled, showing incredible strength. Throughout the performance, the overriding theme was the hunt – whether
for seals or walrus or caribou. Dance steps, drumming, even the sounds made by the throat singers – everything was linked and I could hear Martha’s words in my mind, “If southerners don’t want us to hunt – what should we feed our families?”
Though the cultural performances were fascinating, perhaps the most important moments of the night happened at dinner. After introducing himself, and his colleague Tom Lennartz who would be with us for our great adventure, Mike Beedell asked the group members to share their reasons for coming on the Arctic
Kingdom trip. Why were we there? People talked about their love of wildlife and of years of longing to see the Arctic – clearly, we were a wildly varied
collection of backgrounds and personalities but we shared this one important passion.
Mike listened carefully to each comment and then added his own, “I think we’re all looking for some magic in our lives,” he said. “And I think you’re going to find it here.”
Author: Liz Fleming
March 28th, 2012 | By Candice Hong | Filed in AK NEWS, Community News, Current Events, INUIT, Inuit Culture/Art
Imagine eating raw seal, whale and arctic char, or trying some caribou stew. This March and April, students from Mississauga, Ontario and the small community of Taloyoak, Nunavut are currently participating in The YMCA Youth Exchanges Canada Program. These students are spending a few days seeing how the other half lives.
Big city lights and tall buildings are a normal everyday landscape for most people in the city. To the Inuit students this is a completely different view from the Arctic tundra they call home. Visiting the CN Tower or going to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto are exciting adventures. The Taloyoak students will be touring Toronto, going to Niagara Falls, and staying at the homes of their city counterparts. Meanwhile, Paul Officer the principal at Riverside Public School, will be leading the Mississauga youth, while they experience the Inuit culture from eating traditional food, drumming, ice fishing, building an igloo, to perfecting the high kick during the Arctic games. This cultural exchange is not only about fun and games, but building special bonds that will last a lifetime. As a part of the Taloyoak exchange this year, the city youth will be learning what it means to be responsible Canadians. This will be done through literacy and environmental activities. Students will share favourite books, garden, and interact with elders at the senior centre.
The YMCA Youth Exchanges Canada Program allows students who would not normally get the opportunity to explore another part of Canada, a chance to step out of the classroom, and learn through engagement with a new community. While open to all youth the YMCA program gives priority to students from underrepresented groups such as low-income families, those with disabilities, visible minorities, and First Nations students. Cost of travel to the respective communities is fully covered through a grant. Each community in turn relies on the
kindness of their communities to supply funding for food, local travel, and activities for participants.
Arctic Kingdom to help support this program, has equipped the Mississauga students with all the Arctic gear they need to survive the extreme weather conditions of the North. From toques, Canada Goose jackets and pants, to boots the students have the proper gear needed to stay dry and comfortable. To read more about the activities and the exchange please visit: Paul Officer’s blog.
June 6th, 2011 | By Thomas Lennartz | Filed in IN THE NEWS, INUIT, Inuit Culture/Art
A number of tube sites have emerged online to share curated, intelligent content while utilizing the newest technology in film and online streaming to educate and spread awareness of cultural diversity. One of these – Isuma TV – we’ve mentioned here before, with their mission to bring community-generated video into classrooms and communities otherwise lacking in high-bandwidth internet connections.
Another such site is Explore. Their mission statement -
explore is a multimedia organization that documents leaders around the world who have devoted their lives to extraordinary causes. Both educational and inspirational, explore creates a portal into the soul of humanity by championing the selfless acts of others.”
The Explore site is huge in range of topics, and rich in arctic-interest content. Covering traditional Inuit knowledge, climate change, and the art of throat singing, along with some brilliant photo essays of the region and culture, there’s certainly something for everyone on this site.
February 4th, 2011 | By Thomas Lennartz | Filed in INUIT, Inuit Culture/Art
Here’s something to ‘like’ for sure. Anniagruk Mary Sage saw a need to connect far-flung Iñupiaq speakers and to bring the language to people who are interested in learning more about it in a positive, friendly environment. She records videos and posts them to this Facebook page, while inviting all to participate by creating content, and discussing regional differences in dialect.
From the page, her goal -
To infuse the process of learning to speak the Iñupiaq language with humor and compassion. To excite and inspire non-speakers of the language to speak and to learn. We are all learning, and it’s all ok.
More information on speaking Inupiaq can be found online at alaskool.org, including a dictionary and phrasebook. Language geek.com also has pronunciation guides and a break down of some of the dialect divisions.
January 10th, 2011 | By Thomas Lennartz | Filed in INUIT, Inuit Culture/Art
Climate change has a trickle down effect – impacting the landscape of the arctic and the lives of its human inhabitants. Shifts in weather and ice freezing patterns are altering expected animal migratory patterns, and considerably affecting the Inuit way of life – specifically their diet. Not only is there less access to the traditional foods they’ve subsisted on, but modern times have brought imported processed foods which can lead to health problems.
From Cnn.com comes this article on the work of several scientists doing research into these changes and their ramifications. One of these researchers is Barry Smit, a professor at the University of Guelph, Canada. -
“People looking at the health of the Inuit have demonstrated that the traditional diet, which is almost exclusively raw meat, is in fact very healthy for them,” Smit said. “But because of the new difficulties hunting, people are adapting their diets to what’s available in the stores.
“The stores only have food that’s easy to transport and doesn’t perish, so there are no vegetables. The young people are increasingly eating highly processed junk food, so we are seeing more teeth problems and obesity.”
The difficulties in hunting are caused by shifting ice and changing migratory patterns among animals such as seals, walrus, types of whales and polar bears, which form a large part of the traditional diet, Smit said.
He also noted that the shifting ice made hunting and traveling more dangerous.
Smit said: “Ice is fundamental to their livelihoods and culture. Most of their activities involve traveling on the ice.
“Over the past decade or so, they have noticed that the behavior of the ice is changing, so their traditional roads are not as safe as they used to be.”
Junk food is a problem in many cultures at the moment, but not an insurmountable one. According to Wikipedia, the traditional Inuit diet has always been geographically limited. One positive aspect of importing food is there may be some choice in what can be brought in. An emphasis on vegetables and fruit over processed foods will be a healthier outcome to this necessary change. -
Inuit consume a diet of foods that are fished, hunted, and gathered locally. This may include walrus, Ringed Seal, Bearded Seal, beluga whale, caribou, polar bear, muskoxen, birds (including their eggs) and fish. While it is not possible to cultivate plants for food in the Arctic the Inuit have traditionally gathered those that are naturally available. Grasses, tubers, roots, stems, berries, fireweed and seaweed (kuanniq or edible seaweed) were collected and preserved depending on the season and the location.
December 3rd, 2010 | By Thomas Lennartz | Filed in Community News, IN THE NEWS, INUIT, Inuit Culture/Art
Nunatsiaq online reports on a new show at La Centrale Galerie Powerhouse in Montreal. Women of the Arctic is the first in a planned series of exhibitions and events to highlight works by Inuit artists from Nunavik and Nunavut.
The show opened Nov 19 to an audience eager to view the work and enjoy a throat-singing performance by Evie Mark and Taqralik Partridge. The show consists of works on paper in a range of techniques including painting, drawing, and printmaking.
Some of the oldest prints exhibited at La Centrale gallery are those of the late Leah Nuvalinga Qumaluk, the well-known Puvirnituq printmaker, who passed away last August.
Her work has been shown in New York, Paris and in a number of Canadian collections.
Qumaluk created hundreds of prints since the early 1970s, including the eight exhibited.
Her narrative stone prints employ only a few colours but often many characters, like the 1972 “Morse surprenant les chasseurs” (walrus surprising the hunters) which shows a walrus emerge between two kayakers, with a flock of geese overhead.
In another, “Attente de retour des traineaux,” 1978 (waiting for the sleds to return) a group of four, hooded women’s faces seem to peer out of a blizzard.
The show is up until December 19 at Montreal’s La Centrale Galerie Powerhouse at 4296 St. Laurent Boulevard. If you’re in the area, take a moment to stop by and us know how it looks.