Here at Finding True North, Anubha and I usually focus on blogging about our lives in Nunavut. However, I was lucky enough to spend the past week exploring another one of Canada’s four Inuit regions that make up Inuit Nunangat: Nunatsiavut.
Nunatsiavut is located along the north coast of Labrador. The region is comprised of five communities: Rigolet, Postville, Makkovik, Hopedale, and Nain. I was fortunate enough to visit the latter two.
Nunatsiavut and Nunavut are similar in many ways. They are both located in the Canadian (sub-)Arctic, and are surrounded by often-frozen landscapes. They both consist of several remote communities that are spread out across massive terrains. They are both largely populated by Inuit, with Inuktitut as an official language (although the dialects do vary).
However, there are also many differences that I came to realize during my week-long sojourn to this breathtaking place that is unfortunately unbeknownst to many Canadians. And so, I thought I would share some of my observations of this region that was completely new to me and yet seemed so familiar.
In terms of flights, the largest airplanes in Nunatsiavut’s fleets are Twin Otters (compared to Nunavut's 737s), so your flights are rather claustrophobic cozy. With 3,000-pound cargo limits, these tiny planes make you really appreciate your generous luggage allowance in Nunavut. Showing up at the Ottawa airport ticket counter with two 70-pound action packers has never raised an eyebrow, and yet I felt like a total diva with my one 50-pound piece of luggage.
Snowmobiles and qamotiik are the main form of ground transportation during the winter months (compared to Nunavut's plethora of vehicles), as the roads are not plowed. This made for an interesting “taxi ride” from the airport, as luggage and fellow passengers are loaded into the sled and hauled into town. This was the exact moment I realized why people were wearing snow pants on the plane.
Nunatsiavut homes are often heated with wood-burning stoves (compared to Nunavut's oil tanks). The smell of smoke fills the air, and it took all of my self-restraint to not impose on strangers so that I could indulge in homemade s'mores. “Going wooding” is a favoured pastime, and my self-proclaimed “tree tipis” are found throughout town.
Located below the treeline, Nunatsiavut's stunted evergreens add life to the landscape (compared to Nunavut's barren tundra). Not only are they beautiful (hey, I’m a biased west coaster), they are also useful. Apparently somebody got lost in an unexpected blizzard while walking along the sea ice, so the community of Hopedale erected a line of trees so that people could follow them while traversing the bay.
There is absolutely no cell phone service once beyond Happy Valley – Goose Bay (compared to Nunavut's intermittent CDMA coverage and brand new 3G network). I was really hoping that my archaic Blackberry Curve 8330 from 2009 would get me through the trip, but alas it was even more useless than it already is in Iqaluit. That said, my internet speed was mighty impressive. Well, at least relative to Nunavut. (Don't get your hopes up, southern friends!)
I managed to cover a fair amount of ground during my six wonderful days on the north coast. However, my initial impressions are superficial at best and there is surely much more to learn. Now to devise a way to get back there...