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seal

What Happened in Iqaluit When I Left for 12 Days

What Happened in Iqaluit When I Left for 12 Days

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Hello dear readers. I am writing to you from my home in Toronto, where I have been since June 26th (minus a short visit to the States over the July 4th holiday) until my return to Iqaluit tomorrow, July 8th. Whilst I have been away, it appears that Iqaluit has been up to all of the things, from feasting to festivals to fishing and much, much more. Here are just nine events that happened in Iqaluit while I was away for 12 days.

1. Alianait Arts Festival

The annual Alianait Arts Festival took place from June 27 to July 1, and it featured local, national, and international singers, dancers, and performers. I am sad to say that I have never been in town for Alianait, which always takes place at the end of June. However, this year, I was a little less left out thanks to modern technology: Alianait and Ice Wireless offered free live-streaming for all major shows and the festival had its own hashtag, #alianait10, which was used by attendees and artists to share photos, video, and quotes on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Acrobatic presentation at #Alianait10 #iqaluit #nunavut #nunavine watch live at www.alianait.ca/live

A video posted by Franco Buscemi (@siutiapik) on

2. A Cabbie Abroad Came to Iqaluit

Well technically, Mason McQueen of BBC's "A Cabbie Abroad" came to Iqaluit in the winter, but the episode aired on June 29th. I would have loved to view the episode in town, possibly with a themed viewing party like we did for "Amazing Race Canada." Instead I satiated myself by reading Sara's summary and recap on our blog.

3. Canada Day in the (Northernmost) Capital

I can't even remember what I did for Canada Day this year. Probably sat by my pool. But I know what Iqalummiut did - they put on a super fun community parade! From the photos posted online, it looks like Iqaluit was red and white and maple all over! Photo by Instagram user @teirersias.

#Iqaluit #RCMP #CanadaDay #Nunavut #Nunagram

A photo posted by Aaron Watson (@teirersias) on

4. Celebration of the Seal

The 7th Annual Celebration of the Seal took place on June 28, a "showcase of Inuit culture, past and present." Attendees were treated to drum dancing, throat singing, and games, all while taking part in the harvesting, sharing, and eating of seals. I can only imagine the turnout for this event, considering how many people came to watch the seal-skinning competition at Toonik Tyme.

5. Press Club with John Amagoalik

Speaking of celebrations, did you know that Nunavut Day is on Wednesday, July 9th? Nunavut can proudly claim to be 15 years old, in part thanks to the work of trailblazing politicians like John Amagoalik, former vice-president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. Mr. Amagoalik was the much-anticipated speaker at last week's Press Club; for those of us that missed it, we can make do by reading his writings. First, check out this short post to learn a little about Mr. Amagoalik's story, and Nunavut's, and then take some time to soak up his message in "Reconciliation or Conciliation? An Inuit Perspective."

6. Tundra Flowers

The tundra began to bloom whilst I was away, little microflora popping up around the greening moss and lichen. These pretty buds and petals add so much texture and colour to our northern spring landscapes, but they don't last long. Again, Sara to the rescue with her beautiful photos (this one was posted to our Instagram account, @findtruen; follow us!).

7. Ice Break Up

I missed it again - the breaking of the thick sea ice over Frobisher Bay. I love this photo by Danica Kwong (whose photos were also featured in my post about first impressions of Iqaluit); she calls it "Ocean Puzzle," the caption and the photo perfectly capturing the bay's bemusing shift from solid to liquid before our eyes.

Ocean puzzle.

A photo posted by @saynotomincepies on

8. The Start of Fishing Season

The waters are open and that can only mean one thing - it's time to get fishing! Extended daylight and warmer weather means Iqalummiut are on the rocks and casting until the wee hours of the night, and I can't wait to join them. Photos courtesy of Instagram users @findtruen, @sara_anastasia2, @saynotomincepies, @teirersias, and @siutiapik.

Late night fishing, perfect ending to Canada Day! @saraashleygrant

A photo posted by Sarah Anastasia 💕 (@sarah_anastasia2) on

After work, we fish.

A photo posted by @saynotomincepies on

First #fishing of the season - first #fish beautiful #arctic #char #nunagram #nunavut #apexlife #iqaluit

A photo posted by Aaron Watson (@teirersias) on

9. Farewells

In the 12 days that I was away, not one but two of my closest Iqaluit friends left for adventures beyond our little town. I met these two (separately) soon after arriving in the North and am glad to say that I became fast friends with each of them. They have been comrades and confidantes, dance partners and dinner mates; one encouraged me to face my snowmobile fears and the other helped me stretch my mind and body. Both always had time for tea. I am thankful for the family dinner the three of us (and Justin) shared before my flight down south almost 12 days ago. Twelve days later, I am for the first time heading back to an Iqaluit that will be forever changed because they're not there anymore.

Did anything else happen while I was away? Let me know in the comments! And if you love the crowdsourced photos in this post, make sure you follow us on Twitter and Instagram, because we're featuring the very best #nunagram shots all week in honour of Nunavut Day!

Seal Hunt at the Floe Edge

Seal Hunt at the Floe Edge

Yesterday, the World Trade Organization decided to uphold the European Union ban on seal products. The European Union officially banned the import of seal products in 2009.

Inuit Tapariit Kanatami, the federal organization that represents 55,000 Canadian Inuit, believes the EU ban is discriminatory against Inuit. Although the ban exempts Inuit, Eldred Woodford, President of the Canadian Sealing Association, has stated that, "Unless you have a decent commercial hunt elsewhere to provide the needed marketing of those products, the exemption will be useless, even to Inuit hunters."

Indeed, international demand and prices for all sealskins collapsed after the adoption of the EU seal ban, despite the Inuit exemption to the ban. Since 2009, most Nunavut sealskins have been sold within Canada and Nunavut, but prices have stayed well below pre-ban levels.

The federal government plans to appeal the World Trade Organization's decision to uphold the ban on seal products. It appears as though the ongoing battle wages on...

During my first trip to Iqaluit, in February 2011, I was fortunate enough to experience a Canadian seal hunt first-hand. As part of my colleague's involvement in the Iqaluit Land Use Mapping Project, I was invited along on a hunting trip. Along with my friend and two local hunters, I geared up and set off on a personally life-changing experience.

At the farthest extent of the sea ice, the hunters quietly patrolled the floe edge (where the frozen sea ice meets the open ocean) in search of wildlife. They checked their scopes, loaded their bullets, and prepared their boats. I was amazed at how much time and patience was required.

After many hours, a seal was shot from the ice edge, retrieved in the canoe, and butchered on the ice. With the slick use of a sharp blade – and even sharper wit – the seal was transformed into meat for eating and skin for sewing. The only part of the animal left behind was a small organ that was casually thrown onto the ice. I was told that, “If it burst, it would ruin all the meat.” (Biologists help me out here...)

I know that the hunters and their families were very grateful for the successful harvest that day. I feel tremendously lucky to have been afforded an opportunity that few southern Canadians will ever have the chance to do. My experience of the seal hunt at the floe edge gave me an even greater appreciation for the knowledge, skills, and resources required to harvest such a culturally valued and deeply respected animal.

Click on the photos below to see more. The faint of heart have no need to worry – there are no graphic images.

[Sidenote: I wish that Pamela Anderson would go on an Inuit seal hunt; perhaps I should suggest it to her? After all, we are from the same hometown.]

Thank you to Graham McDowell for the use of his fabulous photographs.