Monday, September 10, 2007

It Pays To Know Somebody ...

It does pay to know somebody if you want to get to know somebody else! We were extremely fortunate to have on board with us, John Houston, a regular on the Explorer, when she is plying Canadian Arctic waters. Here he is in Kimmirut, speaking with a town Elder, while enjoying a treat of freshly killed seal.

John spent his earliest years growing up in Cape Dorset, on Baffin Island where his parents were instrumental in bringing to the rest of the world the fabulous art of the Inuit people. Cape Dorset is known today as having the greatest concentration of artists per capita of any arts colony in the world.

Walrus, sculpted in native stone, Cape Dorset, Baffin Island

John loves to talk about growing up in Cape Dorset. He considers all of the people there part of his family. His Godfather still lives there along with many other friends who obviously think he is a very special person. When he travels in Arctic Canada he insists upon having Inuits on board the ship to share their way of life with the passengers, making it a true cultural experience. Spending several days with us was Senator Charlie Watt. He represents Nunavik in parliament in Ottawa and continues to insist that the Inuit be fully represented and that the proceeds from the resources of the area benefit them. Nunavik is the province of Quebec's northermost region.

Also traveling part of the way with us was print maker, Jolly Atagoyuk, who taught printmaking on board. Jolly lives in Pangnirtung with his wife and children and is a member of the Uqqurmiut Center for Printmakers.

Meeka Mike, a lovely woman from Iqaluit, on Frobisher Bay, described her life with her sled dogs, demonstrating the equipment she uses, some made from walrus and seal skins. She is an accomplished hunter having killed her first seal and first caribou at the age of six.

Aaju (pronounced I U) Peter, from Greenland, showed us traditional Inuit clothing made from seal and caribou skins. She demonstrated the use of seal oil lamps which heat and light homes where electricity is unavailable along with a multitudeof other utensils used in every day life. She has just finished law school and is ready to take the bar exam and also produces a line of contemporary clothing of her own design made from the skins of Arctic animals. The skins she uses for this line of clothing are not killed for this purpose, but are from animals that are taken for food.

Here she is with musician Marshall Dane, modeling traditional clothing and boots like those worn by Iniut peoples, made from seal skins and the skins of other Arctic animals.

Along with these individuals we were often joined on board by community members from the settlements we visited.


Becca said...

It's so fascinating to learn about these different cultures, particularly the ones we read and hear so little about. What a marvelous experience for you~thanks so much for sharing it!

Star said...

I'm really enjoying learning about this area through your posts. These people have such talents that must run back through many generations. I'm glad that the government is helping to protect their way of life.

Kate I said...

I'm enjoying your posts on the Canadian's brought back many memories for me, as I lived and worked in Iqaluit/Frobisher for a year. I worked as a radio operator during my first year out of high school and it was indeed, a year of high adventure!
It looks like your trip was an incredible and unforgetable journey.