Thursday Tidbits

Posted on January 21, 2021 under Thursday Tidbits with no comments yet

Another Eze creation – an inukshuk carved of soapstone


“Learn more than you teach.”

This piece of advice was given to me by a very experienced teacher before I decided to travel north in November of 2019. I have thought about this a lot over the past 14 months. It seems that a week rarely goes by without me discovering something new about the Inuit people, their land, and their culture. I have been assured by many wise local people that I have just scratched the surface and that my education is in its infancy. That’s the good news. The bad news is that I’m edging closer to the age of 70 and at my rate of learning, I reckon that I will need to live as long as Methuselah (969 years) if I have any chance at all of understanding the mysteries and wonders of the north.

Monday was a storm day which gave me an opportunity to wander over to the museum to have a chat with Mary who oversees the facility along with Pingualit National Park. Previously that day she had asked me to drop by to see her. When I arrived, two other employees of the park, Lydia and Noah were sitting around the large table in the meeting room. Mary and Lydia work with a group of young people from the community, teaching them Inuit songs, throat singing, and drumming. Over the years they have performed for tourists who come from far and wide to visit Kangiqsujuaq and the National Park. They invited me to join the group to accompany them on guitar and to sing with them in Inuktitut and English. I’m not so sure about the throat singing but I will certainly give it a try.

My answer was swift. Here was an ideal opportunity for me to experience more local culture and also to learn more Inuktitut. When I first came up here, I thought I might hire someone to give me private lessons in Inuktitut but I have been very busy trying to learn how to teach which hasn’t afforded me a lot of free time.

Before getting into the details, I had a chance to spend some time with Noah. In the meeting room, there is an excellent map of the area which shows the location of rivers, lakes and the numerous camps that dot the landscape. Noah is a local guide, so his knowledge of the land is vast. Looking out the window with visibility near zero, I asked Noah about traveling on the land in these conditions. GPS doesn’t work all that well but centuries of living on the land has given the Inuit all the information they need to get them from point A to Point B. When I asked Noah if hunters ever get lost, he looked and me and said, “We follow the sun.”

I met with Mary and Lydia in Mary’s office. We talked at length about music and storytelling. Apparently, there are some elders who are fine musicians. I hope to have the opportunity to sit down with them and listen to their stories and their music. Mary brought out a book of songs written in Inuktitut. She sang a few phrases from a handful of songs. I found it quite interesting that many of the melodies are based on well known English songs. This will make it infinitely easier for me to follow along and accompany the group. I feel quite honored to be asked to be a part of the group.

Nunavut has a new television station dedicated to preserving Inuit language and culture. Uvagut is a product of Nunavut Independent Television. It was officially launched earlier this week. Uvagut TV will offer children’s programming, movies, documentaries, live shows and archives supplied by independent Inuit producers. This is a very exciting initiative for people in the north and for all Canadians who care about preserving culture and language.

Have a great weekend.

P.S. Yesterday I got a surprise call from the local medical clinic. A doctor was in town and |I was given an appointment to have her look at my arthritic knee. While waiting to be seen, I had the loveliest chat with the mayor of Kangiqsujuaq. She is a very smart, able woman. Of course we talked about the weather with an impending blizzard today. I listened as she explained how the clouds revealed the weather forecast. She also talked about the importance of the moon and the stars in Inuit culture. Frankly, I was mesmerized and even more so when she told me that her late mother was a distinguished educator and recipient of the Order of Canada. The learning continues.

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