boat's cabin fills with the sweet aroma of boiled seal. Steaming
slabs of meat are pulled from the bubbling pot and placed on cardboard.
of the Kunuk family crouch down and dive into the dark, flavourful
meat, mixing the tender morsels with mustard-soaked pickles.
food is one of the healthiest forms of wild meat. Marine mammals
are full of omega-3 fatty acids, which fight heart disease. Caribou
is lean and full of protein.
debate continues about regulating traditional Inuit foods, especially
in the wake of Mad Cow disease, thousands of Nunavut families enjoy
year-round the same kind of meat and fish their ancestors subsisted
summers, boating trips are one way of stocking up freezers. More
than food gathering ventures, though, the overnight excursions are
about sharing traditional knowledge, skills and drinking lots and
lots of tea.
recent weekend boating trip began Friday after work at high tide.
Iqaluit still in sight, Methusalah Kunuk and his brother drop a
net. Twenty minutes later, nine Arctic char are flip-flopping on
28-foot boat speeds down the bay and the fish are cleaned, gutted
and cut into pieces. By the end of the long weekend, two caribou,
one seal and clams have been harvested. A wolf, bowhead whale and
various birds are spotted but not killed.
Kunuk, 21 months, is the youngest of the group. Unconcerned about
who feeds him, the chubby-cheeked boy happily accepts fresh fish
from various outstretched hands. He gobbles up the char, the same
way he devours cheesies and peaches.
A massive kettle sits on the Coleman stove within the boat's cabin.
Despite the never-ending cups of tea, one female passenger limits
her beverage intake. Unlike the men who relieve themselves off the
edge of the boat, women must squat on a coffee can, or wait for
are nine people on the trip, five adults and four youths between
the ages of 21 months to 17 years. Philip Ningeongat is in the middle
in terms of age. At 17, the avid biker, skateboarder and snowmobiler
knows the hunting trips, summer or winter, make him a stronger,
wiser young man.
second day of the trip begins at 6:30 a.m. Tony Ashoona pumps the
stove full of fuel and boils the first of many pots of tea. Bannock
is passed around while people wipe sleep from their eyes.
boat bounces and crashes along the swelling sea. Some people search
for caribou through binoculars, others take turns napping in a crawl
space that is layered with mattresses and sleeping bags.
By mid-afternoon, the group arrives at the family's cabin. Once
the food coolers and bags are unloaded into the unfinished cabin,
Methusalah sits down for a game of cribbage with his brother, Paul.
started building the cabin, about an hour from Iqaluit, after he
discovered a piece of an old boat of his washed up on shore.
location is remote and spectacular. In early summer a fast-moving
stream provides delicious drinking water. The rushing stream flows
into a small lake, which divides a homemade two-hole golf course.
drying rack for char sits was built near the cabin. By September,
the surrounding tundra will be blanketed in berries.
Outside, the kids start their own game. Caribou antlers are placed
upright in sand. From several metres, the youths take turns lassoing
the antlers with rope, like cowboys rustling cattle. A successful
landing is met with quiet cheers.
night, after a dinner of fresh char, vegetables and sweet tea, two
more boatloads of people arrive. A canvas tent is set up outside
to accommodate the overflow of bodies.
next morning, Michael Qappik shoots a seal on a nearby piece of
ice. His children and nephews watch silently as the mammal's fat
and rich, bloody meat is removed.
wife, Maggie Qappik, who is Methusalah's daughter, grew up watching
her relatives hunt and fish. Packing up their kids, the food, the
gear and their dog Twee-Twee (short for Tweedie) to go camping,
takes patience and time, she says, but is worth the effort.
I enjoy are] no phones, no television and no distractions. I want
my kids to know how we grew up, the Inuit way," Qippik says.