Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The White Way

I find some resentment in Nunavut. I have never experienced racism directed towards myself until now. It hurts.

I don't express negativity towards Inuit culture, I don't feel any, just awe, wonder and shock. I am truly awed by what the Inuit people have gone through. I am absolutely amazed with the changes that have taken place and how quickly the people here have adapted to the westernized way that has landed in Iqaluit. Most of the Inuit here are only a few generations removed from the land, which is incredible to think. I never once felt that this westernized way that has been forced upon Nunavut is a positive thing. I wonder all the time if white people took this culture and this land and these beautiful people and ruined the gift that their way of life was.

It is hard for me to put exactly how I feel into words. I feel as though the Inuit people had courage and skill that is unparalleled. When I'm on the land and it's only been a few hours and I can barely keep control of my body because I am so cold, I think about how they survived out here without heating and plumbing and insulated walls. It is amazing to me, it is something that I cannot wrap my head around. I admire them for the ways they adapted to the land and made the most of what they had available. They made housing from nothing, clothes and food from animals, which they used every part of.

I think they had it right, while we we're abusing nature and the natural gifts we had. We produced waste and pollution in so many regards. We have ruined mother earth and I believe that we will pay for the damage we have done. Possibly with the lives of future generations. I wish the people of the South could have taken lessons from those who lived in the North. It seems the Inuit had the right idea when it came to the natural lifestyle.

White people as a whole have done a lot of harm in this world and I know that. Years ago the Inuit were figuratively suffocated by "Christians," the white people who came here to "help." I don't know the stories well, but I have heard of the trauma and the torture. The time is referred to as the time of residential schools. The people who arrived here forced learning and aspects of westernized life on the Inuit, it broke their hearts, it impacts them in ways that I cannot imagine.

I have a lot of white friends here who have felt the whip of racism and I have heard their bitterness when they say, 'look what we brought here.' They say the words as if we brought the real world to Nunavut. The truth is, we brought materialism, we brought drugs, we brought alcohol, we brought a whole whack of awful things and forced them on a beautiful culture.

I will take the criticism and I will take the words and all the hurt intended by them. If the colour of my skin brings back memories to people who the white man hurt, then I will carry that burden because I feel for the people who were pained by the experiences of their past. I feel that they deserve to be angry with me but I wish they knew that their culture is nothing short of inspiring to me. I wish they knew that if I could take them back and change things in their favour, I would. If I had the power to put up a wall that blocked out all Southern influence I would do it.

When I express my shock in regards to the way of life here, its not because I don't approve, it's because I am trying with all of heart to wrap my mind around it, to really understand. I am an outsider and everything I see here and hear here amazes me. I compare it to my materialistic and privileged Southern lifestyle. Because of this I am taken aback by a lot and I want to share these things with the people I love who would never know this experience otherwise. I am inspired and excited by seeing such a different way of life. It makes me question everything I was raised to think and feel. It makes me a better more compassionate person and for that I am thankful.

I moved to Iqaluit for the adventure and the experience. The organic aspects of this City are my favorite parts. I have a million questions and I want to immerse myself in the powerful culture that seems to be slipping away. I want to hold onto it for the Inuit people, I want to see it preserved and embraced and respected for what it is worth.

I believe that the integration of good health care, education and law enforcement (or law in general) is positive for Iqaluit but there is a lot that has had a negative impact. I wish that I could fully understand the pain that was caused here but I also wish the people who were hurt could find a way to forgive. The people who caused that hurt were bad people but there are people like me who come here to explore something wonderful and to learn from the stories and wonder of this culture. For what it's worth, I am sorry.


Inuusira said...

You are right, in that for how you write it comes out as sounding you want Inuit to live the way you feel is right; and you have to understand that in this culture, it will be taken, as I have, in a strong, retalitory way. But, you do come back to explain yourself and the comparison you want understood between these 2 different worlds. For that I embrace you and want to thank you too for reminding me that for the respect that we try so hard to ask for has to be reciprocated as well. This is what my Inuk parents have tried so hard to teach me and my siblings, despite the hardships of their time growing up. I feel that I am one of the privileged few who is compensated well within my profession; but still am tied strongly to my Inuk blood and verociously defend the way of life that was so shamelessly seen as unfit, underclass, savage and downright non-deserving of any respect. It is all so un-material, this life, what we call Inuusivut - our life. But at the same time it is. This modern life that we are in today is so mixed - the way of life as it were and the way of life it is now, that is the mix that you see. Welcome to Iqaluit and I hope that you embrace and accept Inuusivut and that we give you the experience that you so desire. Taima.

Anonymous said...

It's hard to be an outsider. You're brave to put yourself in that situation. It's more complicated by the fact that you're an outsider where you are but an insider in the bigger picture. Awe and inspiration are good qualities. At the same time, they are symptomatic of that outsider/insider status and so people are reacting not just to what you say but the very fact that it announces who you are and where you're from. Does that make sense to you?

smitten kitten said...

I arrived in Nunavut 6 weeks ago. I was looking to get away from the big city, looking to embrace a different approach to life.

In my short time here I have felt your pain, but have also been met with welcome.

Just last week one of the elders told me that I was so very welcome in the community. Since, I have kept that with me every day.

Your blog is fantastic. It's refreshing to read something real and true to the heart. Keep your head high & good luck on your adventure!

Anonymous said...

This comment go to smitten kittenes:
So my girlfriend and I have been looking into moving to Nunavut for the past year; it was just a thought but recently we have decided that it is what we will do. Since you're new in Nunavut Smitten Kittens, what would you recomment for us to prepare with. I mean i dont have a job waiting for me or my gf. We want to just take off with the savings we have and basically just risk it. Also if i was looking into opening a business, what sort of things are needed there that are hard to find. I would appreciate any suggestions you or anyone else would have for me. Thank you.

Stacey said...

From what I read of this post I imagine there were people who did not understand your previous post. I know that you write from the heart and that in no way would you disrespect another culture.

Sometimes it is difficult not to give advice to others. Your words to the young 16 year old were said out of love. I am not sure it's a "White Way", the right way or the wrong advice, but I do know that the important message is to love thy self and expect nothing less from others.

Missing you. See you in....60 days or so?

Melissa said...

Inuusira, you have no idea how much your words mean to me. Thank you for your understanding and for sharing your thoughts with me. Sometimes I get so carried away with specific stories that I forget the way people might read it, not knowing the back story behind my intentions and love for this City and these people and this experience. Qujannamiik.

Lilian, you are exactly right. I understand what you mean and it defines the way I feel. There is a sense of being torn in two directions. Living here I know I can fade in and blend, I know the ways of life around here fairly well, and am less and less surprised by things each day. I try not to mesh too much though. I actually remind myself sometimes to embrace the fact that I am an outsider because it causes me to veiw things differently and heightens the experience for me. It allows me to embrace things that should surprise and inspire and change me and my views. The outcome is bitter sweet.

Smitten Kitten, I am so glad to hear about your experience and glad to hear that you've embarked on a similar adventure. Quite the experience huh? Thanks for reading. Let me know how things go for you!

Anonymous, I'm not sure if you'll be back to read this but I know how it feels to be looking for information on this life when it's so hard to find. I just wanted to give a little bit of advice. I admire your plan to wing it, what an inspired way to live! However, Nunavut is a scary place to do so. Housing here is very expensive to buy and even harder on the bank to rent. I have friends in a two bedroom apartment who pay $3000 a month in rent. If you or your girlfriend can find a government job or a job that comes with housing, I would certainly advise it. There are tons of jobs on the internet, even if it was temporary until you found a better situation. It also costs a lot of money to get out of Nunavut, should you decide its not for you. Flights from Iqaluit to Ottawa for example, usually run just under a thousand dollars a person, one way. If your savings is substantial and you are a gambler then I wish you all the luck in the world. This Territory is unforgettable, breathtaking and you would never regret seeing it for yourself. As far as opening businesses, I dont know much about the details behind liscensing or planning but no matter where you go in Nunavut im sure you could create a business plan to succeed. You will find for many industries, there is not much competition in the north. Through word of mouth you would be well advertised. I could see finding retail property to rent might be tricky but then again, people run businesses out of their homes here so depending on your ideas, you might find some fairly good odds of succeeding.

Stacey, thank you, you're right. All I want is for these sweet girls to love themselves and be loved. I'll see you in 41 days. Aakaluk