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May 30th: Arrival in Inukjuak

Here I am.

After all the fuss and the preparations, I made it to the hamlet of Inukjuak, on the coast of the Hudson’s Bay. The small Bombardier turbo-prop made a series of stops along the way complemented by stunning views of wandering ice sheets on the deep blue waters.

Nunavik from the sky

Nunavik from the sky

On the first leg, I sit next to a kind and inspiring woman from Pond Inlet (Nunavut). She works in restorative justice and is passionate about community development. She will also serve as guide for the second year on the Crystal, a huge cruise ship which goes through the Northwest passage. She sees the cruise ships as an opportunity for her community to improve well-being, but few agree with her. We share contact information and I promise to keep her informed about my project.

On the following leg, I meet with a young Inuk from Umiujaq. He teaches me basic Inuktitut words and we talk about the local hockey rivalries. After about 6 hours of stop-and-go, passengers make their way to the crowded Inukjuak airport. The airport basically comprises one room for departures and arrivals.

Inukjuak Airport

Inukjuak Airport

I look around for my “lift” but it doesn’t seem to be here. While waiting for my luggage, I start a conversation with another Qalunaat (word for Whites in Inuktitut). She is a doctor in town for a week. Kindly, she offers me a ride. Not knowing the address of the house where I’m staying, I simply give the driver my host’s name. The house seems empty and no one answers my multiple knocks. Five minutes after my arrival, the daughter of my host debarks sharply in front of the house in a four-wheeler. Despite modest outer appearances, the home is furnished with a modern kitchen, a large TV, and Internet.

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I get offered a ride to Coop, the local grocery store. My host laughs as I drive through town on the four-wheeler. The Coop is huge! Prices are high but not as much as I had thought. She then takes me through town. We stop at the hockey rink (it’s a beauty), the recreation center, the community freezer full of caribou meat, the dumping ground, and the school. The freezing wind is gusting and my hands are starting to go numb. The temperature must be around -10 or -15. What a stark contrast from my day at the pool in Montréal just before the departure!

Back home, we talk about the multiple suicides which happen all too often in the community. Unfortunately, there is little sense of purpose as many of the youth are unemployed. Many of the positions in health, education, and social services are held by outsiders. Some use fishing and hunting as a way of reconnecting with their identity. For others, drugs and alcohol are the escape. This doesn’t stop all the Inuit I’ve met so far to have a hilarious sense of humour.

Only in darkness can you see the stars.

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