Here in the Arctic, Inuit and the land are inseparable. People have had a presence here for more than 4,500 years and are as much a part of this place as the tundra and the endless skies. The arrival of qallunaat and the move into towns brought change, but it has not changed the fundamental essence of this relationship. And few things are more important than this relationship.
When the season turns to spring, this ancient bond is on full display. It is a time to gather food, to socialize, to laugh and to renew old ways—following the rhythm of the land, the rhythm of the season, the pattern of the animals that live here. It is a time of family, friends and comfort.
Here at home in Arctic Bay, the rush to leave town for the land starts at the end of the school year in the beginning of June. Families have kamutiik packed and loaded with supplies for up to a month on the land, and as soon as the final school bell rings there’s an exodus out of town. Most head south to the far reaches of Admiralty Inlet. Geese are arriving and there are eggs to be gathered. Thousands of snow geese (and many Canada and cackling geese) breed in the area around Nuvugutaq and, as the snow recedes, delicious eggs are being laid. They are gathered and cradled in grass and moss.
More time is spent at lakes and rivers, fishing for Arctic char. Then, as the rivers open, the fish return to the ocean where they are speared with kakivak through cracks in the sea ice. Dried char, called pissiq, is prepared. Country food feeds the soul as well as the body. And while spring’s bounty won’t last, the pissiq will.
After the char run, it’s time to head out to the sea ice to hunt seal the old fashioned way. Groups of several families fan out, looking for aglu, the breathing holes of ringed seal. Seal provide a staple food as well as clothing, and hunting them is an integral part of life.
As the spring progresses towards its end, camps gradually move back up the coast, closer to homes—but further from home.