It’s been a busy year for 16-year-old Amka Aliyak—better known as Marvel superhero, Snowguard—who in April joined the Champions, a crime-fighting squad, alongside Spider-Man and the Hulk. Up Here was lucky to catch up with Snowguard when she wasn’t busy fighting bad guys, thanks to the help of comic book writer Jim Zub and Nunavut-born virtual-reality artist Nyla Innuksuk, who have brought her story to the world.
Up Here : What’s it like to be a superhero?
Amka Aliyak: My friends and family are still trying to get used to it. To be honest, I am too. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great and really exciting, but I just want to do a good job and not embarrass myself, you know? The community seems really happy. Some school kids have sent me handwritten letters asking how my powers work or what my favourite foods are. It’s cute.
UH: Let’s talk about your powers. Who gave them to you? What can you do?
AA: I rescued a great spirit of the North named Sila and they gave me some of their energy, which turned me into...well, I guess into a superhero, though it sounds a bit weird saying it out loud. But, it’s true.
Sila’s energy connects me to nature so I can sense the soul of the land, the earth, and the air. It connects me to wildlife and even the plants around me. I’m still figuring out exactly how it works, but I can change my shape to become an animal—so far I’ve been a wolf, an owl, an eagle, a bear and a couple weird animal combinations too.
I can make the Northern lights appear anywhere I go, and use that light to create visions of almost anything I can imagine. No one would mistake those light illusions for real things, but they’re a good way to show people stuff I’ve seen or enhance the stories I tell.
UH: Is it important for kids in the North to see a hero like you?
AA: I think so. I feel a lot of responsibility and don’t want to let anyone down. Heroes don’t just come from America and they’re not always from big cities. Everyone needs to know they can be a hero, no matter who they are or where they’re from.
UH: Do you always feel like a superhero with superpowers? Or do you have doubts?
AA: Sometimes, when I’m flying through the air or fighting bad guys, I wonder how this all happened and where my life is going. I get scared, just like anybody else. Sila’s energy flows through me, but it doesn’t change who I am deep down. I’m still Amka Aliyak, a 16-year-old Inuk girl doing the best she can.
UH: What was it like to come back to Pangnirtung after spending time in the south?
AA: It was harder than I thought it would be. I didn't realize how much I'd missed it until I was there and realized that months had gone by and people's lives were continuing on without me. I'm having my adventures and they're doing their thing too.
I'm famous in Pang, but I'm still me. My cousins still give me a hard time and my Mom is still my Mom. That never changes. I try to help out more and use my powers to keep the community safe, but I also just want to spend time seeing friends and hanging out like I used to.
UH: Did people in the south understand what your life is like in Pangnirtung?
AA: I get the impression they thought we all lived in iglus and had snow all year round, but that's a pretty common misconception, even with people who live in Canada. People tend to ignore the North.
I've been showing the Champions photos and telling them stories, getting them up to date. I want to show them that, although there are some cultural differences, we have a lot in common too. Kids are kids and teens are teens, wherever you go, right?
UH: Who have been your role models?
AA: My uncle told me stories of Silap Inua when I was young. He taught me a lot about doing what's right and keeping your word. My mom has always believed in me and encouraged me to do what I think is right, no matter what anyone else thinks.
Beyond that, I grew up seeing Alpha Flight, Canada's superhero team, on TV, and I thought they were really cool. I call myself "Snowguard" as a nod to two of my favorite Alpha Flight heroes— "Snowbird" and "Guardian." I hope they don't mind.