Week 11 Land of Polar Bears
Date Posted: 5.11.2009
Location: 67º33'N 63º0'W
Qikiqtarjuaq, Nunavut, Canada
Weather Conditions: Sunny, 19°F (-7°C)
Pretty much any street you choose to walk on in Qikiqtarjuaq – you will see a polar bear! Polar bear skins hanging or stretched out for drying that is, not one walking down the street of course (though in the fall we are told they walk both outside and in town). The skin hanging out right across the street from where we are staying was Brad’s first bear. Brad is eight years old! Jason who has helped us a great deal right from
we pulled the sleds into the community is Brad’s father, who took him
hunting. He is obviously proud, but what makes him proud is the fact
that Brad is learning how to live off the land as is the Inuit tradition;
“If you know who your parents and grandparents are and what they
did, you have your culture” says Jason. Brad’s best friend is 12 years
old, and he too got his first bear this year!
Jason has a 9-5 job in the community, but when he is not working he can be found out hunting, “…by the end of the hunting season I have usually spent all my vacation days” Jason grins. What he hunts supplies the family with meat so that they do not have to buy expensive meat in the store. And, since he is a good hunter they get more than what they need which they then share with the Elders in the community. Nothing goes to waste from what is hunted. They might sell the skin from the polar bear brad shot, but they are eating the meat and being that it is Brad’s first bear, they are cleaning out the cranium to have as a keepsake. The claws also might be used for carvings!
(Left) Cool message from local students: We can change the world with our two hands!
It was Jason’s hunting allowance. Each community in Nunavut is given a quota that they can hunt in a year, which has been decided to keep the polar bear population healthy. Qikiqtarjuaq received an allowance to hunt 30 adult and single polar bears this year, 15 in the fall and 15 in the spring. The Hunters and Trappers Organization is in charge of the allowances and in Qikiqtarjuaq they then have drawings to decide who can go hunting. When Jason’s name was drawn he then has 24 hours to hunt the bear. No bear – and a new drawing is held. You have to be 16 years of age to enter in the drawing, but when you get it you can pass it on to anyone in your family.
About 550 people live in Qikiqtarjuaq. "Ki-kik-TAAK-jo-ahk" ... The students at the local Inuksuit school really tried to get us to be able to say it right, but whenever we think we are getting the hang of it, one of them will spit it out and we are just blown away by how wrong we are still saying it! But we did have a blast at the school with the students talking about what we are doing and how it is so important for the rest of the world to hear what climate change is to them, how they are affected and what they think about the future - both good and bad! As usual, Disko stole the show! Actually, Disko might be more than busy the next few weeks as we set out from here. Not only will he be back in the harness to lead the team much of the way, we sure hope he keeps an eye open for polar bears like he has in the past.
(Right) Aaron and Chris in the Airport with their dogsledding tans!
One of the last things Aaron did before he and Chris departed from the land of the polar bears was to once again ensure that all measures are in place to prepare us for any polar bear encounters. Qikiqtarjuaq was the final destination for the two of them on the GoNorth! Nunavut 2009 expedition and it was more than sad to see half of our team take off. They are already greatly missed. But they were missed at home too! After quite the journey back hopping from airport to airport for 3 days (!!!) they were welcomed back in the arms of their loved ones with fanfare.