Friday, April 1, 2016

Can't Get Enough of the North

So I just entered a contest where the first place prize is an arctic cruise with #MyAdventureCanada. My entry is a sweet picture of my now 3 and a half year old, Brody, all frozen from tobogganing. Please do us a favour and take a few seconds of your time to vote for our picture! Click on this link to vote for my adorable entry, . Thank you kindly! 

Sunday, August 3, 2014


As a mother who is raising Inuit children in the Arctic I have to give my vote of support for the 'seal'fies.
I moved North in search of an adventure and instead I found a life, a beautiful, inspiring and thrilling life amongst the Inuit culture.
Being a mom (who primarily feeds her baby organic produce when we are in the South) I am faced with challenges in the attempt to prepare healthy and nutritious meals in the North. We live in a place where produce has a three day shelf life and by the time it has been shipped half way across the world, been frozen, thawed and displayed for sale, it has lost most of it nutrients anyway. We live in a place where healthy choices are difficult to make, and unhealthy choices are almost as bad, with a can of zoodles costing nearly nine dollars. I have gained an immense appreciation for the animals who will feed my son, nourish my son and clothe my son, as they are fresh, they are birthed and free to live in some of the cleanest land I have ever seen. There is no such thing as free-range in the Arctic, because all of our animals are free. When our wildlife is harvested, it is harvested humanely. Seals along with Caribou, muskox and even polar bear feed communities who live with the reality of food insecurity. And then those animals go on to clothe those communities.
The seal is abundant across the North. It is hunted ethically, sustainably and respectfully. It is appreciated and it is a gift. Can you say the same for the last meal you consumed with meat in it?
I can honestly and whole heartedly tell you that it gives me a peace of mind to send these children out into the winter with seal skin on that no store bought product could give me.
I have spent time outdoors, away from the warmth of town, in the winter and spring where it has been so cold that I learned to respect the Arctic for not only what is has to offer but for what it can take from you. I credit the furs of animals as the reason I still have my fingers and toes.
The Arctic is arguably the Worlds most extreme and dangerous climate. The furs that line the hoods of parkas serve a purpose, though beautiful - my fur is not a simple fashion statement - it has been the reason for arriving at my destination without frostbite across my face.
I dress my son in fur because it keeps him safe from the pain that the wind can cause. It keeps him sheltered from the unimaginable cold and it is a representation of Canada's true North, strong and free, and the strength that is the Inuit people. Ellen Degeneres would do the same thing if she had children to protect from these elements, she just doesn't realize it.
It is the seal that has sustained the Inuit culture thus far, and it is the seal that will continue to do so.
Fur is not fashion, fur is livelihood.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Traditional Sewing of Kiiyuk Kamiks - Western Arctic Style

I've been trying to keep busy and entertained while getting much needed breaks from my little love bugs.

I have been working as a substitute teacher which is always a fun and exhausting day when the opportunity to be there arises. Today I got up and showed up only to find a power outage. Last week I had a call to be there and we had a blizzard. The Universe seems to be working against my attempts to stay busy outside of the house.
I spent last week in Librarian training with some folks from Hay River. My hopes that the role of Librarian will ever come to me are slim to none - though if I had a dream job in Ulukhaktok, that would be it - small town politics and a line up of entitlement to the job lay ahead of me.

We did just finish taking a class on Kiiyak making. Kiiyak's are traditional seal skin soled kamiks, or mukluks. This type of seal skin sole is chewed into its form.

Me beginning the chewing of my kiiyuks
Our first class we spent on the ground using old 12 gauge shot gun shells on the end of scissors to scrape all of the fur off of our Ugyuk skin. The Bearded Seal is used for this because of its tough, thick skin. The skin under the fur is dark in colour, almost black, and the reverse side is a sort of yellow shade, that sometimes doesn't smell very nice due to residual oils.
Our second class was when we started chewing. You can chew either side, happily we were chewing the dark side where the fur had been removed. The elders who were teaching our class had taken the skins home to soak them for us. We then cut them to the right size and made folds where our crimping via teeth needed to start and stop.

We scraped and chewed and gagged and chewed and eventually sewed them into finished products.
My first pair ended up being the wrong size sole as my pattern had been made too small. So I put them aside and made a pair to fit.
The pair that fits me I sewed without a design on them and in natural seal skin so that they are simple and match all of my attire. I am undecided about what kind of design to add to the duffle socks.

First finished boot without laces and with
 an unfinished duffle
My finished kiiyuks - just need to add
 some colour to the duffle
The second pair I am working on - the first small kiiyuks that I chewed - are my practice pair, which I got a little bolder with and sewed in a design. The ooh's and aww's I recieved in class and from the elders made me blush and made me overly proud of my first attempt at sewing with seal skin. They are far too big for Mekia, though her tiny feet get extremely cold so I may sew her some caribou slippers to wear inside these kamiks to keep her warm. 

My experimental pair. Sewing in designs is a lot of hard work

Katie's kiiyuks didn't fit her either so she made a second pair as well. Her first pair she finished in seal skin and her second pair she finished the traditional way - with canvas.

Katie's first pair of small kiiyuks

Katie's collection of Western style kamiks from left to right,
seal skin, caribou fur and the canvas kiiyuks she made herself
We didn't make it into the class that is running now, which certainly got me down. They are making seal skin parkas and couldn't take more than five ladies due to costs. My hope is to borrow a pattern from one of the ladies who are also making parkas for their small children and sew at home with my own materials so my boy can have one too. I am really enjoying sewing with animal skins, it is all done by hand with sinew thread which is thick and waxy, making it strong and water proof. My last experience successfully using a sewing machine must have been my days of making doll pillows with my moms machine. My comfort zone lies within the limits of hand sewn projects. Sewing traditional items has me thoroughly captivated, it's nice and relaxing to focus on the project at hand and it also opens my eyes up to the way they did things in the past - when they couldn't stop by the Northern store to buy new boots.

Our last Kiiyuk making class. Our instructors Mabel Nigiyok on the left, Mary Kudlak
in the centre and Mary's lovely daughter Emily Kudlak leading a drum song

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Arctic Fox

The Arctic Fox is super cute. His sweet little face makes me feel beyond guilty that his cousin was at one point tanned, dyed black and retailed for the value of his life - roughly $500.00... only to be sewn onto my parka to keep me from freezing over.

Then I look around at every other parka around me that dawns a fox, wolf or wolverine and I feel even worse until I remember what life is like without an animal fur saving my skin from hardening to the rock form that is frost bite.

A couple of weeks ago our local friend Patrick came by to tell us to take a look out back of our house. Katie and I wandered out to find a successfully trapped fox. He was beautiful and reminded me a little bit of my cats.

He's dead now, he was dead that day. He was likely skinned right away to eventually become fur trim on a hood, or to adorn a hat or mitts.

And while we're on the topic of Arctic animals. I just asked Katie if she was using a really old dishcloth... you know that smell? ... turns out shes boiling caribou tongue. Yum.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Brain Freeze and Snow Drifts

Fresh air for kids is something I deem to be important. I have always felt that they need to be outside, stretching and playing and breathing the air.

Environment Canada has the temperature with windchill for Ulukhaktok to be negative 34 degrees Celsius. This isn't near the coldest I've felt but my goodness this town has nothing to block that wind.

We fought for half an hour to get the babes ready. Brody does NOT under any circumstances, even on the best of days, enjoy getting geared up for the outdoors. We managed to walk to the Northern... which is about 3 minutes away before we had to get indoors and warm up. The little hairs on my face were instantly fusing to my neck warmer and I actually had a cold headache, the kind you get when you drink a slushy too fast. My brain was freezing in the cold wind.

We got out just in time to catch the light. It barely sticks around at all. Around 11 am, I enjoy watching the pink sky to the left of the house as the sun tries to push through, and at the same time, watching the moon to the right of the house, still lighting the town. It feels almost like watching a wrestling match and knowing that the sun is getting weak and will soon give up the fight.

While out in the light, I got to see the six foot (+) snow drift that had formed on the road next to our house after yesterdays winds. No wonder I felt lost as I tried to walk through it in the pitch black of yesterday evening, with only the tiny illuminated window from our garage to assure me that I was still heading in the right direction.

It's the tiniest things that remind me that I am further North than I ever have been.

Brody's typical outer wear - though on days like today, he is also inside my amauti which acts as a second parka for him.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sunrise and Sunset in Ulukhaktok

I've never seen a sunrise, a sunset or a moon like I have in Ulukhaktok.

For a few weeks now I have been working as a substitute teacher at Helen Kalvak School here in Ulu. The classroom that I have been in for the majority of the time has windows that span the entire side of the room and has one of the most gorgeous views that I have ever had the pleasure of enjoying.

I've seen a lot of sunsets and a lot of full moons. But I have never seen a sky like the one here. When it isn't covered in a think blanket of cloud, it is majestic. It is a source of inspiration and radiates life. I feel full when the sunset shines pink and gold through my soul. I feel full of awe when the moon and the stars glow the way they only could atop of an unpolluted night sky, in a quiet, dark town in the middle of nowhere. I feel close to God when I look out through the windows in this town.

I cannot photograph the sky to do it any justice. I cannot come close to capturing the way that this town takes my breath away.

The sun doesn't last long anymore. We are about to lose it completely until somewhere near mid January when it will return for the same kind of peek-a-boo appearances.

During the one hour class I've been teaching from 1:30 to 2:30, the sun has been both rising and coming close to setting. By the time I leave at 3:45pm it is dark again.

View of the sunrise from the front of the school

View of the school parking, now mostly snowmobiles, the playground, the Ulukhaktok community center and the town

Sunset with a view of the other playground, the town and the RCMP station on the right
When I left work the moon was just coming up over the hills, it was an image of perfection. The moon, full and round and bright white. I wanted to share it, to lasso it. I wish with all of my being that the people I love could be here to see what I get the chance to see.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Hey Southerner, does my blog make you feel cold?

I'm not going to lie, if I were down South enjoying the beauty and sweater weather of fall, I probably wouldn't want to read this blog often... it would make me feel cold and really, who likes feeling cold?

I never owned a own home before moving North. I wouldn't know the first thing about my furnace needing fuel refills, or how to replace a furnace filter and if you leave me a thermostat with no manual... it becomes obsolete, useless to me. So until now, I got by just screwing around with the buttons. It would get cold so I would push a few things and somehow the house would (usually) warm up. For the past week our furnace has been shutting off in the middle of the night and we have been waking up freezing. After many days of Katie flipping the breaker off and on again... which seemed to have been working, I realized no silly thermostat games were going to save us.

Dramatic? Maybe... but I doubt you know what it feels like to wake up to a blizzard pelting your house so hard that the glasses in the kitchen cupboards are shaking. The wind is so cold and so strong as it hits the windows that if you close your eyes, you could easily imagine that you are in the storm rather than sheltered in the house. Embarrassingly enough, I am not kidding when I say that the wind at night in Ulukhaktok freaking scares me.  

Long story short, I was on hold with tech support so long that I actually managed to fix my thermostat woes before the man on the other line managed to figure out which model we have on the wall. Proud. 

With the wind and the snow come days off for the municipal truck drivers... I think... but honestly I'm not sure what they do. All I know for sure is that when the wind is too high, the water truck cannot deliver water. 
This means a few things: 
a) my showers are getting shorter, and believe me when I say, if the furnace isn't working, you don't want to get out of the hot shower... ever
b) laundry is pilinggggg up 
c) the dishes are also piling up
d) this one is perhaps the most horrific. The daycare and preschool are closed 
e) due to point d, I cannot work as I am home with the tots

As you can see, my income is directly effected by mother nature, my sanity is also directly effected, as is the cleanly state of this house...
Just kidding, this house is never to be classified as 'cleanly' or any other similar descriptive adjective. If it has been, its a lie. We have toddlers. If you come over and it is remotely clean... we faked it.

The following picture is the lovely view from by bedroom window. The top half is a picture taken in September while sea lift was here. The bottom half is what it looks like now. Looks fun right? If you look the wind in the face, you cannot breathe and you get frost bite. 
I am past the point of ready to book a tropical vacation. I'm pretty sure the fireplace is tired of having a front row view of my ass.