Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Canada 150 Celebrations

Source: Wikipedia.
Canada officially celebrated its 150th birthday on July 1, 2017.  The federal government began the festivities on January 1, (2017), and encouraged everyone to not stop “partying” until December 31 . . . 2017.  Half a billion dollars was set aside for sesquicentennial events and projects across the country.  A logo was designed, commemorative currency & stamps were produced, and posters & banners were plastered everywhere.  A line of Canada 150 merchandise was started and could be purchased online or from authorized dealers.  The National Film Board of Canada did a four-part online series, 1 Nation. Four Lenses, and CTV produced Canada in a Day, a documentary film that presents life in Canada over the span of 24 hours.  I should point out that I know the Inuk lady who was chosen by Canada Post to appear on the Canada 150 Nunavut stamp.  She is from Arctic Bay and works at the local Co-op!   

The attraction that drew the most interest in Nunavut was the Canadian Arctic Aviation Tour, a nine-week summer air show tour that would visit every northern community in the three territories.  Unfortunately, the tour was grounded after 63 performances, due to lack of funding.  The remaining 35 communities, Arctic Bay included, never got to see the amazing performances.  I would have missed the Arctic Bay show anyway because I was down south for the summer.  Hopefully, the tour will be resurrected in the near future and the remaining 35 northern communities will get to see planes doing awesome tricks in the sky.

I wasn’t in Ottawa on July 1 for Canada Day, a decision I regretted for a short time.  I, and the rest of the world, found out that the festivities in the nation’s capital didn’t go quite as planned.  The celebrations were plagued by disorganization, long security lineups, overcrowding, delayed buses, and rain.  I guess no one thought to put portable toilets next to the security line.  If only the new hockey stadium had been built in LeBreton Flats.  The organizers could have rented that place and filled it with thousands of visitors watching a live-feed of the performances on Parliament Hill.  Maybe that will happen in the year 2067 when Canada celebrates its 200th birthday?  Only time will tell.

Arctic Char.
Early in the year, Inuujaq School was made aware that there was money available from the Canada 150 Fund to organize cultural activities in the community.  A committee was formed and began looking at what could be done to celebrate the sesquicentennial.  (I was on the committee.)  After much discussion, the committee decided to organize a community feast and cultural show.  The original plan was to hold both events in May but for some reason, the money was not received in time, forcing us to delay the events until the fall.  (The committee was actually glad of this because May is a pretty stressful month with a lot of things already happening).  Several more meetings were held in the fall to finalize the programs and duties.  The community feast was set for November 15 and the cultural show on November 16.  (The money from the Canada 150 fund was received by then).

Caribou meat.
Vegetables & cups.
Preparations for the community feast began in the afternoon.  Bins and containers full of prepared foods were spread across the Home Ec Room.  The Breakfast Coordinator was preparing loaves of bread and bannock.  The bins contained arctic char, seal & caribou meats, and the containers were filled with cut up vegetables.  The food, juice boxes, plastic cups, and anything else needed were transported to the community hall after school.

Inuujaq School staff are ready to serve.
The community feast began at 6pm.  A tarp was laid down in the centre of the hall and country food was placed on it.  (Country food as in arctic char and seal meat).  A line of tables was set in front of the stage.  The bins of cooked country food were placed here.  The fruits, vegetables, bread, bannock, and caribou stew were placed on tables set up around the tarp.  Inuujaq School staff stood at all the tables wearing blue latex gloves, ready to serve guests.  The principal welcomed everyone to the community feast, sponsored by Canada 150.  The food was blessed by an elder and then everyone lined up for food. 

I helped the staff by serving large pieces of cooked seal meat and then handing out frozen country food.  I ate a little bit after everyone was served.  Many people took the frozen country food home in plastic bags to save for later.  I think we fed more than half the town.  It’s good to see people going home with full stomachs, because Nunavut families are struggling with food insecurity.

The cultural show was the very next night.  My drummers and I were on the program.  We didn’t have much time to prepare because we had just performed at Halloween.  We only made a few adjustments to our list of performance pieces.  The emcees for the show were Paulette Campbell & Geela Arnauyumayuq.  Paulette is the high school art teacher and Geela is the mayor.

Olayuk Kigutikarjuk.
Geela & Paulette
The show began with a prayer & lighting of the qulliq by Olayuk Kigutikarjuk, a well-respected elder.  She spoke in Inuktitut while Geela translated in English.  Next was the mural presentation.  Paulette had been working on the mural for many weeks and it was displayed at the high school graduation ceremony in June (2017) but it wasn’t finished.  She was grateful to have been given extra time to add all the details.  The completed mural was unveiled and received an extended applause.  Many people walked up to the stage to take photographs.

Grade 3 singing "O Canada". Mural in the background.
The Grade 3 students sang O Canada in English & Inuktitut.  Eunice, the Grade 7 teacher, sang two traditional Inuit songs while two high school students provided musical accompaniment on Inuit drums.  Everyone then watched a video of an elder telling an old Inuit legend to school children.  This was followed by two students who throat sang for the audience.  Another video was shown, this time narrated by Adrian Arnauyumayuq, who talked about surviving a polar bear attack at the floe edge in 2014. 

Inuit Fashion show contestants.
Adult contestants.
The Grade 9 Inuktitut class performed two western dances.  Next came the traditional Inuit fashion show.  Contestants appeared on stage in their traditional clothes and the judges decided who was the best dressed.  There were 3 categories: children, teenagers, and adults.  I could have entered the competition because I have sealskin kamiks, mitts, parka, vest, and tie.  There’s always a next time.

Inuujaq School High School
The last video to be shown was This Is Arctic Bay, a compilation video of many different clips that showcase the community and its people.  The video was prepared by Clare Kines.  The high school drumline was the last performance on the program.  Naturally, all the kids crowded around the front of the stage, excited to see what my drummers could do.  We “rocked the house” in my opinion.  We played three cadences as a group and several of us played solos.

The emcees thanked everyone for coming to the show and the curtains closed for the last time.   

The Canada 150 celebrations in Arctic Bay were a success, but overall, the festivities across the nation have received mixed reviews.  It was pretty obvious from the beginning that planners wanted to top Expo 67, but I don’t think they succeeded.  Criticisms came from all directions, many legitimate, many others not so legitimate.  I understand & sympathize with Canada’s Aboriginal population who mostly saw Canada 150 as a celebration of colonialism, and pointing out that the $500 million-dollar budget could have been spent eliminating the Third World living conditions that many Aboriginals in Canada continue to experience (Nunavut included).  It makes me wonder if those same criticisms were present during Expo 67, but the federal & provincial governments did a much better job at suppressing them?

I can only hope that the problems that continue to plague this country will be properly addressed & corrected before the year 2067, Canada’s 200th birthday.    

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Remembrance Day (2017)

November 11, 2017.  Remembrance Day.  A day to remember the men & women of the armed forces who have died in the line of duty.  The day was created after the First World War and is observed by the Commonwealth of Nations.  Countries outside the Commonwealth hold similar ceremonies on different days of the year.
Every year, 3045 Army Cadet Corps of Arctic Bay organizes a Remembrance Day ceremony at the local community hall.  A fair amount of planning, preparation, and coordination goes into making the ceremony a success.  The good news is that the corps has done it so many times that what needs to be done before has become routine.  The only things that change are the people involved.
The corps staff and cadets arrived at the community hall at 9:30am.  We immediately went to work setting up chairs, tables, and pasting Remembrance Day posters & decorations around the hall.  (Inuujaq School students prepared many Remembrance Day themed decorations a week in advance and donated them for the ceremony).  Everything was ready to go by 10:30am.  The cadets changed into their green dress uniforms while the hall slowly filled with people.  I would be the emcee.

The parade started at 10:45am with the Entrance of the Colour Party, followed by the Marching On of the Parade.  The cadets marched in a single file and halted next to the flag party.  They were followed by both local RCMP officers.  Rev. Aigah Attagutsiak led the Opening Prayer.  In my opening address, I welcomed everyone to the ceremony, and explained briefly explained the importance & significance of Remembrance Day.  This was followed by the playing of “O Canada”.

First Bible Reading.
Everyone took their seats and listened to the first Bible reading, read in English & Inuktitut.  This was followed by the hymn “Abide With Me”.  I was unable to find good recorded version on the Internet so I did the next best thing: I played the hymn on the piano and everyone sang to the music. 
Everyone stood up for the Last Post, Minute of Silence, Piper’s Lament, and Reveille.  I played the recordings off my tablet.  For the cadets on parade, getting through this section requires standing at attention for six minutes.  We practiced a few times before the ceremony.
Act of Remembrance Readers.
Irene Swoboda (left).
The Act Of Remembrance was read in English, French, and Inuktitut.  This was followed by another Bible reading.  Long time Arctic Bay resident Irene Swoboda spoke about her thoughts on Remembrance Day, talking about her relatives who fought in the First & Second World Wars.
New on the program was a live performance of “Pass Me My Boots,” a song written by Robyn Gillespie.  Robyn is a member of the musical duo Robyn & Ryleigh.  When I asked her what the song was about she had this to say:
Robyn Gillespie performs "Pass Me My Boots".
“Learning of the history of war was heart-wrenching.  I learned of the devastation and loss.  During this time in my life, I was an aspiring singer/songwriter.  I wanted to write a song for the soldiers and the sacrifice they made.  This song has been performed all over Canada and the United States. The reactions from audiences remind me why I wrote it: to spark emotion and to honour all the lives lost in war.” 
MCpl S. Pauloosie (left) and Kataisee Attagutsiak (right).
I assigned cadet Master Corporal S. Pauloosie to speak about the significance of wearing the poppy on Remembrance Day, the life of Lt. Col. John McCrae, and McCrae’s most famous poem, “In Flander’s Field.”  K. Attagutsiak translated in Inuktitut.  Three cadets recited the famous poem to the audience.
RCMP places a wreath.
Two cadets and the local RCMP laid wreaths in front of the podium.  Members of the public were also welcome to place their own wreaths up at the front.  I went back to the piano and provided the instrumental accompaniment for the hymn “O God Our Help In Ages Past.”  Everyone stood for the playing of “God Save The Queen”.  Lt. F. May concluded the ceremony with the Closing Remarks.  The RCMP & the cadets were marched off the parade.  The audience applauded their performance. 

A short reception was held after the ceremony with donuts, cupcakes, cake, tarts, coffee, tea, and water.  I had a group photo of the corps taken before I dismissed the cadets to the reception.  Several audience members came up to me to congratulate me on another successful service.  I’m certain they said the same thing to the cadets.  The corps cleaned the community hall after the reception and the cadets were dismissed for the day.


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Halloween & Anti-Bullying Week (2017)

Inuujaq School became a scary looking place on the afternoon of October 31 – Halloween.  Students and teachers came dressed in a variety of costumes.  This year, I decided to dress as a faceless Evil Knight.  I brought my other costumes from the previous years because my drummers wanted to wear them for the assembly.  Once they had their costumes picked, they helped me move all the instruments, music stands, and sticks down to the gym and set up.  We were ready to go by the time everyone was in the gym.
My drummers and I had been practicing for the last month, getting ready for our first concert of the semester.  Naturally, they were nervous, but I assured them everything would go over well.  We all took deep breaths and slowly exhaled.  The school principal introduced us and we walked into the gym in a line.  We took up positions behind our respective drums and waited for the applause to subside.  I raised my sticks, clicked four times, and the show began.
We played three drums cadence, each one about 45 seconds in length.  I think the cadence that was the most impressive was where I had four of my students tossing sticks to each other in an X pattern.  Three of us did separate solos to the delight of the audience.  I actually did two solos: one on the snare drum and the other on the quad toms.  My solo on the snare had a military feel to it while the quad tom solo was all about triplets.  At the end of our performance, I personally shook the hands of my students and congratulated them on their first successful public concert.
The assembly continued with the costume contest.  Each class walked around the gym twice and a panel of judges picked the best dressed student from each class.  Teachers & parents also competed for the best dressed prize.  The winners received Co-op gift certificates.  I didn’t win this time. 

Everyone was dismissed early at 3:00pm

Trick-or-treating began at 5:00pm.  I remained in costume, unlocked my front door, sat, and waited.  A steady stream of trick-or-treaters came to my door.  Most of them were getting rides in vehicles because the temperature is pretty cold by the end of October.  I gave out three pieces of candy to each person for the next two hours and still had plenty left over.  At 7:00pm, I quickly changed out of my costume and locked up my place.  I headed down to the community hall for the community costume contest.

The community costume contest is all about choosing the worst/ugliest dressed.  Contestants put on whatever they can find at home and hope they win the approval of the judging panel.  Creativity & shock value are on full display.  The best part of the contest is that the contestants deliberately hide their faces behind masks.  Everyone is left guessing until the very end.  There are two categories: 12 & under, and 13 & over.

MLA David Akeeagok
The contestants sat at the front of the community hall while the spectators sat along the walls.  Many people in the audience had their cameras out to take pictures & videos.  I say this every year: I could spend an entire blog post or two describing the variety of costumes that were on display but I don’t have the time.  Instead, I’ll let the attached pictures do the talking.  Our newly elected MLA, David Akeeagok, was present.  He welcomed everyone and thanked the voters for choosing him to be the MLA for the Quttiktuq area.

The 12 & under contestants went first.  They walked around the hall while music played over loud speakers.  Each contestant had a large number pasted to their backs so that the judges could easily identify them.  Next was the 13 & over group.  They did the same thing, parading around the community hall about three times, letting everyone see their crazy designs.  They took their seats after the music stopped.

The judges on stage debated for several minutes before announcing the winners.  The top three contestants from the 12 & under group were called up to the front to receive their prizes from David Akeeagok.  I think the audience was more interested in finding out who were the kids behind the masks.  Next came the top three winners from the 13 & over group.  Coincidentally, I correctly guessed the first-place winner: contestant #37.  I should have taken bets.

Candy toss.
The ceremony finished with a candy toss.  Candy was thrown from the stage and everyone charged into the centre of the hall, picking up whatever candy they could claim.

Winter is in full swing.  The sun is almost gone.  We won’t see it until early February.  The bay is frozen and the sounds of revving skidoos can be heard all over town.  My skidoo is working fine; I don’t have to walk to work & back home as much.  However, I do have to spend extra time warming up the machine.

Since the bay is frozen and thick enough to support the weight of vehicles, the cadets have begun cross country skiing on weekends.  3045 Army Cadet Corps runs a biathlon program and one of the components of the sport is cross country skiing.  The cadets borrowed my camera on November 5 and photographed themselves skiing on the frozen bay.  The best pictures would be used on Facebook for local recruitment.

Anti-Bullying Week was November 6 – 10.  The RCMP came to the school on November 7 to speak to the high school students about the dangers of bullying & cyber bullying.

Anti-Bullying Assembly.
An Anti-Bullying Assembly was held on November 8.  The assembly was led by Greg, the Grade 6 teacher.  Elementary & middle school classes were given a week to come up with something for the assembly.  Posters were made, skits were prepared, and short films were presented.  The kindergarten class performed their skit first.  They were followed by Grade 1 and so on.  I think the short videos made by the Grade 6, 8, & 9 classes received the most attention.

We all left the gym hoping our school was closer to becoming bully-free.

Grade 7

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Late October (2017)

Representatives from the Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA) came to Inuujaq School on Friday, October 20, to talk to the high school students about offshore oil & gas exploration.  The QIA doesn’t do the exploration but it does pay attention to the oil & gas companies interested in seeking and extracting the fossil fuels from beneath Arctic waters.  For the last several years, the Arctic has been viewed as a large area of undiscovered resources.  Many mining & oil companies believe there is a lot of money to be made in the Arctic extracting these resources and this worries the QIA.  Extraction means disrupting animal habitats, changing the landscape of certain areas, pollution, and leaving contaminants behind.

The representatives explained the many uses of oil, how it’s discovered & extracted from the land, and how the QIA works with other Inuit organizations on making sure the land & animals are not damaged by mining operations.  They also made the students aware that climate change is causing the polar ice caps to melt at a much faster rate than before, opening up many waterways in the Northwest Passage.  More open waters mean more ships and more people.  The Inuit need to be prepared to control & regulate this increase in activity, otherwise they, the land, and its animals will suffer.  The representatives hope some of the students will consider joining the QIA after completing high school. 
The territorial election was just around the corner.  The vote was set for October 30.  Nine candidates were competing for the Quttiktuq seat that covers Arctic Bay, Grise Fiord, and Resolute Bay.  The nine candidates were: Rachel A. Qitsualik-Tinsley, Leo Eecherk, Mishak Allurut, Andrew Taqtu, David Akeeagok, Kataisee Attagutsiak, Isaac Shooyook, Gary Kalluk, and Mavis Manik.  Several of my students joked that I should have run for office but I said that I wasn’t ready to enter Nunavut politics.
Kataisee came to Inuujaq School on October 26 to talk to the high school students about the upcoming election and her platform.  She is the same Kataisee that took me ice chiseling in 2015 and is the head of the local District Education Authority.  She spoke in Inuktitut & English, explaining what she will do if she is elected as a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA).  She also answered questions posed by students & teachers.

Student Council staged a mock vote on Election Day so that high school students can experience what it’s like to cast a vote.  The mock election was held in the math & science classroom.  There was a registration table and several voting booths.  The students lined up, signed in, were given a piece of paper with the listed candidates, and instructed to walk behind a privacy board, and mark X on their candidate of choice.  They then placed their folded ballots in a sealed box.  The high school teachers reminded them that in some countries, you’re not allowed to choose your leaders, so it’s important to exercise your democratic rights.
Students voting.
I cast my vote at the local community hall.
Student Council President casting her vote.
The newly elected MLAs were announced on October 31.  David Akeeagok won the Quttiktuq seat.

3045 Army Cadet Corps staged a Fall Biathlon competition on October 28.  The event is designed to train cadets on what to expect when they compete at regional & national biathlon competitions.  The school’s gym was converted into an air rifle range with three shooting lanes and three plinker target boxes.  Participants would be running & shooting, but not at the same time.  The junior cadets had to run twice and shoot three times.  The senior cadets had to run three times & shoot three times.  All the participants would be timed.

A week before the competition, I walked with the cadets the one-kilometre course they had to run. 

The cadets were formed up and I explained the rules of the competition.  I also made the cadets aware of the penalties they could incur.  Once everyone understood what was expected of them, the cadets were dismissed and three cadets were selected to begin the competition.  There were 10 competitors in total.  I was timing and recording the penalties.  I had the cadets who were waiting around help me replenish the pellet bowls. 

The competition lasted about 90 minutes.  There was running, shooting, more running, and more shooting.  I was glad that I had enough stop watches to have all the competitors start at 00:00.  I wouldn’t have to do some crazy math to figure out their total times.  Once everything was cleaned up, the cadets were allowed to play some sports.  The winners would be announced on Wednesday.

The following day, I walked into my classroom to get ready for the upcoming school week.  When I flicked on the lights I saw my desk, a guitar, and many office supplies covered with green & orange gift wrapping paper.  “Well, that’s a wrap,” I commented to myself.  Apparently, someone decided to make my birthday memorable.  Thank you!  I took pictures of the spectacle before unwrapping everything.  I was glad I came in on the weekend.  I didn’t want to spend Monday morning unwrapping everything. 

Speaking of birthdays, JF made me a delicious marble cake.  Thanks!

Happy Halloween!