Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Arctic Bay Sun Celebration

The teachers & students of Inuujaq School were treated to a 10-day spring break after March 27th.  We were free to do whatever until April 7th.  From what I overheard, many would be going out on the land, staying at their cabins, sleeping, visiting Pond Inlet, and hanging out at the community hall with friends.  I too made plans for the break and looked forward to completing the entire itinerary.  (More on this in future posts).
On Saturday, March 28th, the Youth Committee & local Food Bank organized an afternoon Sun Celebration at the community hall.  (The committees were aware that the sun had returned over a month ago.  "Better late than never," I was told.)  Extensive planning and preparation had gone into this event.  This was evident after looking through the program booklet. 
The celebration began at 2:30pm with an opening ceremony.  There was an opening prayer, lighting of quilliqs, throat singers, drum dancers, and ajaajaa (pronounced a-yah-yah) singers.  I was unable to be in attendance because I was at the school supervising cadet afternoon sports.  The cadets were dismissed early because of the celebration but by the time I arrived at the community hall, the opening ceremony was over.
The feast had just begun when I walked inside the building.  On the menu were: chili, char stew, vegetables, traditional foods, snacks, coffee, tea, and hot chocolate.  I sat at the back of the hall ate my plate of food.  One of the traditional foods I was eager to try was cooked polar bear meat.  In short, the meat tasted like caribou, the "chicken of the north".  It's a meat definitely worth trying. 
People enjoying the feast.
Polar bears are not endangered; they're classified as vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.  Polar bear hunting is strictly controlled in Canada through the use of quotas, permits, and residency requirements.  About 500 polar bears are hunted every year across the country.  The Nunavut quota is 60.  Inuit hunters wanting to hunt bears have to submit an application at their local hamlet office; their names are then placed in a draw.  It's like playing the lottery because only a certain number of permits are assigned to each community and they're always more hunters than available permits.  For non-residents of Nunavut and non-resident foreigners, there are also a number of fees you're required to pay, such as licensing and approved guides.  (Hunting with a licensed guide is mandatory).  The use of motorized vehicles is forbidden; you can only use dog teams.
A traditional clothing contest was held after the feast.  Contestants were competing for $50 & $100 gift certificates from the Co-op.  The small number of contestants stood at the front of the hall so that everyone could see their outfits.  The clothes were made from caribou and seal skins. 

The next section of the program gave participants the option to partake in a variety of games inside and outside the community hall.  The energetic people went outside to try their luck at the five-legged races while the rest stayed inside to play Inuit string games.  I stayed inside and photographed everyone playing.
King George V Mountain

I stepped outside to get some fresh air.  I took some photos of King George V Mountain and three kids playing soccer out on the ice.  The leg races were finished so I was unable to take any action shots.  The town scavenger hunt began several minutes later.  Participants could work in groups and were free to look all over town to find the items on the list.  The use of vehicles was also allowed because of the limited amount of time.  I watched people race off in all directions in their trucks, skidoos, and atvs.  Someone was able to find all the items on the list but I forget who it was.  They received a $50 gift certificate.

While the scavengers roamed the town looking for "hidden treasures", Inuit children competed in an egg-spoon race.  While balancing an egg on a large spoon, kids had to walk as fast as they could around a high school student and make it back to the stage without dropping their eggs.  Some made it while others did not.  There were a lot of close calls too.   

High school Inuktitut teacher Kataisee
cradles her nephew Jake while watching
the stick game.
Inuit children and elders sat down in a large circle after the race to play a stick game.  The game is similar to cup-and-ball except you're trying to catch a piece of animal bone on a stick.  Each person was given three tries before passing the device to the next person.  Those who were unsuccessful were removed from the game.  Those who were successful were allowed to stay for the next round.  The game continued until there were two or three people left in the circle.  The prizes were $20 gift certificates.       
The sun pinata being put together.
The sun celebration organizers saved the best activity for last: the sun piñata.  A week before the event, they built a large piñata out of newspapers, paper-maché, and coloured tissue paper.  They filled the centre with enough candy to feed a large crowd.  Now the moment had come to forcefully break open the piñata.  The sun piñata was hung from the ceiling in the middle of the hall.  Everyone gathered around in a large circle, excited and eager to beat it with a stick.  Several teachers and I stood on stage to photograph and film the entire spectacle.
The activity was led by two southern teachers.  They decided to let the smaller children hit the piñata first, otherwise the larger kids would break it open in a few minutes.  The chosen kids were blindfolded and spun around three times before being given the stick.  They were allowed three hits.  There were some misses, many good hits, several really-good hits, and a few brutal hits.  The kids with the brutal hits had channeled all their inner strength (or anger) into their grip and "went postal".  We were glad they didn't let go of the stick or swing it in the wrong direction.
It took about 10 and a half minutes to break open the piñata.  When the candy hit the floor, everyone charged into the centre.  It reminded me of the traditional country food feasts I've attended just not as intense.  The intensity made me think of a fierce game of rugby.  Thankfully, no one was hurt.  I was glad to the have captured everything on camera.
Once all the candy was taken, the community hall was cleaned and swept.  The event was a success and a perfect way to begin spring break.

No comments:

Post a Comment