Amazing Kids! Magazine

A Walk through Nunavut

By Grace Tang, AK Columns Global Village and Adventures Editor

 

Some things stick, some things don’t.

When I visited the Canadian Arctic, I thought of nothing but snow. It was only second thought that I would be painted by the brights and greys of the indigenous culture.

Nunavut, declared only in 1999 as an independent territory of Canada to protect the indigenous Inuits, covers a large portion of the Canadian arctic. I have always heard of it – in history textbooks, in newspapers, in the media – but the passive acknowledgement was the extent of all my knowledge. Its name, Nunavut, is unique and attractive and was the only thing that would stick in my memory, nothing else did.

When I decided to visit Nunavut’s capital, Iqaluit, in the midst of November 2015, my mind was captivated by the potential layers of snow, the colorful architecture, and the waves of the water that I would see. And I did – when the plane flew above Arctic, the white puffiness of the snow became more surreal and looked like a passage of cloud. It was beautiful. But it was merely that – beautiful. I quickly realized that the scenery would be the last of the things that I would be reminiscing over.

Upon arrival, the bright yellow airport attracted me to the brightest of dreams. The cold air asked for quick movement to the nearest and only hotel. Its red color contrasted against the yellow, but it did not hinder against the territory’s thrive. These popular tourist attractions were great, but it was only through a light walk across town that I noticed the details of the natives who lived there. Despite the cold weather, there was only one Tim Horton’s to serve the whole town’s coffee. For those who do not know, Tim Horton’s is the iconic Canadian coffee shop that immerses in rich numbers throughout the rest of Canada. There was also only one grocery shop, one electronics shop, one bank, one furniture shop, one Chinese restaurant, one Indian restaurant, but many, many tourist shops.

It was in these streets that I saw a man stare at me as if my skin resembled those of an alien. There were no words exchanged but I picked up the unspoken link between the people who lived there. Of those who lived in Nunavut, only 3% represented the racial minority of being neither indigenous nor white. My visit to the grocery shop brought an Arab woman, hand in hand with her kids and her husband, to stare at me with a source of wonder and amazement. I later learnt that they were the only Arab family who lived in Iqaluit. Racism is subtle but poorly hidden. The history of the Canadian government’s mistreatment against the indigenous people has brought out some of the worst bilateral hate, but of course, with the reconciliation of time and treatment, this is slowly changing for the better.

The youths tell me that secondary school must follow a strict curriculum set by the Canadian government. This has attracted many teachers from the South who were not able to obtain employment in their hometowns. These teachers speak perfect standard English but have no prior interaction or appreciation of the Inuits or their language, yet they stone upon the school as if they have nothing to learn. The youths tell me that “you can’t get too close to them because they don’t care and will leave in a few years after they have the money.” The youths tell me that graduation from high school is the most they are willing to achieve, that the territory’s low graduation rates are coherent with their beliefs of the academic. The boys tell me that they love to hunt. The girls tell me that they love to cook the hunted meat.

The Minister of Education tells me about his experience with residential schools – something I remembered studying for my Grade 9 history course. He tells me and shows me the skin of polar bears, of traditions and customs, of the founding of Nunavut, and of the preserving of a culture. It is no longer because of things that I have read in history textbooks, or in newspapers, or in the media. It was real. It is real.

Some things stick, some things don’t. But sometimes, all things stick. Now Nunavut is no longer a word. It is actually, truly, really a territory with rich history so embedded that it is constantly spilling through the ice capped ground.

So when I left the Canadian Arctic, I thought of nothing but the indigenous culture. It was only second thought that I was painted by the amazing scenery offered by the snow.

I have almost forgotten about how beautiful the more primary way of life is and the humble beginnings that Canada once stood upon. Sometimes it is these more seemingly obscure visits that bring out the most joy and pull you to the core of reality.


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