Thursday, November 12, 2015

Remembrance Day (2015)

A lot of sugar was consumed over the Halloween weekend.  When school reconvened on November 2, it was obvious that very few students slept.  The sugar rush would last for the next several days.  Halloween decorations were taken down, leaving the hallways and classroom doors bare.  I showed the ugliest costume contest videos I filmed to my students.  They enjoyed laughing at the crazy costumes of 2015. 
I debriefed my drummers about their first public performance.  Most of them said they were really nervous and made plenty of mistakes.  I reiterated that since none of them made a "big deal" about their mistakes during the performance, the audience didn't notice them at all.  I also reminded my drummers of the "Golden Saying" whenever a musician is confronted by an accusation of making a mistake: you just reply, "That was part of the performance."  I once again congratulated them for successfully performing their first gig and that it wasn't as hard as they thought it would be.  Our next public gig would be the Christmas concert in December.

The next big event in the community after Halloween, and all of Canada, is Remembrance Day.  The cadet corps takes charge by organizing a ceremony at the community hall on November 11th.  Planning already began in mid-October because there are many tasks to complete and the cadets need time to review the drill routines.  Lt. May, the commanding officer, assigned me the position of emcee. 
The program is mostly "set-in-stone"; we just had to find volunteers to do readings, presentations, prayers, and speeches.  A reception would be held after the ceremony as a way of thanking the public for their attendance.  The only new addition this year was having a looping slideshow at the back of the hall.  The slideshow would contain pictures of Canadian war memorials, cemeteries, and battlefields where Canadian soldiers fought in Normandy, France during the two world wars.  The pictures were taken by the cadets who travelled to Normandy in May, and when I travelled to the region in the summer of 2014.  The slideshow was put together by Ryan, Inuujaq School's media teacher.    
Lt. May booked the community hall on November 4th for an evening dress rehearsal.  The cadets practiced marching in & out as a single file, reforming in two ranks, removing & replacing headdress, and standing at attention.  Two cadets were chosen to carry the flags of Canada & the cadet movement.  They practiced flag party drill with Civilian Instructor Reid.  Three cadets were chosen to recite Lt.Colonel John McCrae's poem "In Flanders Fields".  They practiced reciting the poem from memory. 
I looked around the empty hall, picturing in my mind the following Wednesday morning.  I also thought about what to say in my speeches.  The Welcome Address was my responsibility as emcee, and it was suggested that I also talk about the meaning of wearing the poppy.  I had rough ideas by the end of the night.
At school, I taped a collection of Remembrance Day themed posters in the high school hallway.  (I bought a second set for the cadet corps; they would be displayed at the community ceremony).  I showed several Canadian Heritage film minutes, and pictures from my Normandy, France trip to my two social studies classes.  The elementary & middle school hallways were decorated with drawings of poppies.  One teacher gave me several posters made by their students so that I could paste them on the walls of the community hall.  Connie, the high school Inuit culture teacher, made her own poppies from sealskin and sold them for $20 each.  Most of the teachers bought one.
November 11th, Remembrance Day, is a public holiday in Canada.  There are regular classes down south but not in Arctic Bay.  Everyone gets a day off from school.  I made my way down to the community hall at 9:45am, wearing my green dress uniform under my heavy Canada Goose parka, and snow pants.  I decided that my military issued trench coat was not made to handle the arctic cold.  I checked my uniform, making sure there was nothing wrong.  I spent the previous day ironing my uniform and polishing my shoes.  When I was convinced that nothing was out of place, I waited for the cadets to arrive, and quickly checked their uniforms.
Audience. *1.

Flag Party. *2.
Everything was in place and ready to go at 10:45am.  I glanced over the community hall - filled with people & special guests - one last time before commencing the ceremony.  The flags of Canada & the cadet movement were marched in and placed on brass coloured pedestals.  The cadets marched in single file and reformed in two ranks between the flags.  Behind them marched the town's two RCMP officers and several Canadian Rangers.  Reverend Leah May led the opening prayer in Inuktitut.

Me doing the Welcome Address. *3.
I kept my Welcome Address short and to the point.  I acknowledged the attendance of visiting guests, such as, PJ Akeeagok, the President of the QIA, and all the people who volunteered to do readings, prayers, and presentations.  I also included the following facts:

1) Remembrance Day was first observed in 1919, to mark the end of the First World War in 1918. 

2) In the years that followed, the day would be used to acknowledge the duties & sacrifices Canadians have made in other world conflicts, past, present, and future.

3) More than 1,500,000 Canadians have served in the armed forces and more than 100,000 have died in the line of duty.

Local Arctic Bay resident, Sam Willie, translated my words into Inuktitut.  He was the translator for the ceremony.
Following the playing of the national anthem, "O Canada", Lt. May & Eunice Attagutsiak read Micah 4: verses 3-4 in English & Inuktitut.  Eunice teaches Grade 7 at Inuujaq School.  Everyone then sang the hymn "Abide With Me" with prerecorded & live music provided by Sam Willie.
We didn't have a bugler present for the ceremony, so we had to play a recorded version of the "Last Post".  Everyone then stood for the Minute of Silence.  Next came the "Piper's Lament" and "Reveille".  These musical pieces were also played from recorded audio files.
Cadet Corporal C. Tilley lays a wreath. *4.
The Act of Remembrance was done in English, French, and Inuktitut, by retired Lt. (Navy) Alison Drummond, Francois Brouilette, and Cathy Towtongie.  Francois is the current manager of the local Co-op and Cathy is the President of the NTI.
From the left: Cathy Towtongie, President of NTI. Levi Barnabas, local QIA liaison offier.
Tommy Tatatuapik, local Ranger patrol. *5.

Cadet Corporal R. Qaunaq reads
the first verse of "In Flanders Fields."
Four wreaths from the cadet corps, QIA, NTI, and Canadian Rangers were placed in front of the podium during the Wreath Laying.  Psalm 121 was then read in English & Inuktitut by Ryan Girvin & Phillip Kalluk.

Reverend Les Wheeldon happened to be visiting Arctic Bay at the time of the ceremony and was asked to talk a little bit about what Remembrance Day meant to him.
I briefly spoke about the life & times of Lt. Colonel John McCrae and his most famous poem, "In Flanders Fields".  I also explained to the audience that every November 11, we wear poppies as a memorial symbol for soldiers who have fought and died in war.  I then called upon cadets Robyn Qaunaq, Ashley Tunraq, and Dylan Tilley to read "In Flanders Fields".
Cadet Corporal A. Tunraq reads the second verse of "In Flanders Fields". *7.
Cadet Lance Corporal D. Tilley reads the third verse of "In Flanders Fields". *8.
Lt. May presenting his closing remarks.
The audience stood up to sing the hymn "O God Our Help In Ages Past" and "God Save the Queen."  Sam Willie led the closing prayer and Lt. May concluded the ceremony with his closing remarks.  He thanked everyone for attending, the people who participated in the program, congratulated cadet corporal Robyn Qaunaq for commanding the cadets, and Paulette for making the Remembrance Day mural.  Paulette is the high school art teacher and had this to say about her mural:            
Paulette's Mural.
"I researched many images of war and finally was inspired by a Frank Hurley photograph taken in 1917.  A bleak and moody landscape with soldiers walking through.  Loss of life is inferred by natural debris.  I did my first drawing with a white pastel and the image was strong, but I wanted more mood.  I chose [the colour] purple - [the] symbol of mourning, but it is also spiritually calming."

The mural was completed in 3 days.
Cadets of 3045 Army. *10.
The cadets, rangers, and RCMP marched out of the hall while the audience applauded their performance.  People then stood up and got in line for the reception.  Coffee, tea, bannock, and cupcakes had been prepared by the health nurses and the bylaw officer.  I received many positive comments about the ceremony from the people who attended.  I was glad that everything turned out well and the slideshow was well received.
Reception Line.
The community hall was tidied up and rearranged for a public QIA meeting later that afternoon.     

Lest We Forget.

*1 - 10: Photos taken by Joanna Awa.

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