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.    

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