Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom (And Whimsy)

Posted on November 9, 2022 under Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom with 2 comments


Canadian Indigenous Veteran’s commemorative pin


My first two weeks back in the north are in the rear-view mirror. Psychologically, it took some time to come to grips that I had left unseasonably warm weather back home to arrive in Kangiqsujuaq in cold winter weather. Even as recently as a few days ago, temperatures in the Maritimes were in the low 20s. It hasn’t gotten really cold up here yet. That will come after Christmas when it will likely get up into the -50s.

As this will definitely be my last stint in the north (famous last words!), I have decided to keep things very simple. I haven’t signed up for internet, cable, or a landline. Things that we take for granted in the south can be a source of frustration in the north where outages and poor reception are common. I live literally 50 paces form the school and go there for my internet fix. Actually, early in the morning, when internet usage is at its lowest, I am able to get a faint internet connection at my apartment.

The previous times (2019, 2020, 2021) that I had come to the north, I arrived with half of the contents of my apartment back home including bedding, pots and pans, baking ingredients etc. Because my decision to come north was so sudden, I decided to take only what was absolutely necessary – mostly clothing and some bulk food items from Costco like rolled oats (for oatmeal) coffee and coffee pods. Coffee is very expensive to purchase in the north. Before arriving, I sent out a message to my colleagues on a group chat asking for a few basic items for the kitchen and a bit of bedding. (I took my own sheets). My kitchen is embarrassingly spartan. I have one knife, one fork, one spoon, two dinner plates, two dessert plates, two bowls, one coffee cup, two pots and a frying pan, a spatula, a can opener, one good chef’s knife, a wooden spoon and two measuring cups for making my oatmeal. And that, my friends, is it. What I have discovered that if you are not doing a lot of entertaining, this is all a person really needs. Doing the dishes in the evening is like a scene out of Groundhog Day.

I have invited my colleagues over for a potluck lunch on Remembrance Day. I have instructed them to bring their own knife, fork, and plate, or else they will be eating lunch…with their hands… off a napkin!

It’s all still a bit of a blur. For several days, I kept shaking my head, realizing that I was actually back in the north but after two weeks, I feel more settled. If there is such a thing as a moment when you know for sure that you’re back in the north, it happened last Friday. It was at the end of a Professional Development Day when word spread that the beluga whales were in the harbour. They come twice a year, and this is a very exciting time in the village as beluga is a prized food source for the Inuit. I walked down to the pier on Wakeham Bay. Most of the excitement was over for the day but I did notice the head of a beluga sitting on the shoreline. A young lad was slicing off pieces of the skin, called muktuk. In previous years I had eaten beluga raw, frozen and in many other ways but not muktuk. He offered me a slice and, of course, I accepted. After eating the brain of a Canada Goose and the eyeballs of a ptarmagin (a bird) in previous stints in the north, I was not going to be deterred by a small piece of beluga flesh. It is supposed to be a great source of nutrition. It was a bit chewy and didn’t have a distinctive taste, but it was not at all unpleasant. I asked the young boy if muktuk might make my hair grow back as I removed my toque! He gave me a big smile.

I wondered how I would pass the long winter evenings without television or internet. YouTube solved part of my problem. I purchased their premium package for $15 a month (I won’t tell you what internet, cable, and a landline cost) and am able to download movies, television shows and music. Even without an internet connection, I can entertain myself at home. Of course, I love to read so I’m not terribly worried that boredom will set in.

I plan to be home for Christmas and I’m trying to set up a book launch somewhere on December 23rd. My 7th book goes into print next week.

Here’s a little history lesson for you on the eve of Remembrance Day.

Many people are unaware of the contribution indigenous people made during the two World Wars and other global conflicts. Over 12,000 Indigenous soldiers volunteered to fight on the front lines in every major battle Canada has ever been involved in. Yes. Volunteered. You see, they weren’t conscripted like other Canadians because they were not recognized as Canadian citizens and did not have the right to vote. Many volunteered to fight despite the challenges they faced including racism. They fought with courage and distinction. It took decades before Canada officially recognized the efforts of Indigenous veterans and we now celebrate National Indigenous Veteran’s Day. (It was yesterday, November 8th.)

The commemorative pin that you see in the photo above was commissioned by the Royal Canadian Legion. The pin presents the Legion poppy on the centre of a dreamcatcher, acknowledging the efforts and sacrifices of veterans from all Indigenous communities.

On Friday, when you pause to remember our fallen soldiers and relatives, please remember the contribution that our Indigenous people made to keep our country free.

“At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

We will remember them.” Laurence Binyon

Lest we forget.

Have a great weekend.

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