I’ve had the privilege to travel a lot during my short but busy lifetime. I visited many countries and yet, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like Inuit Nunangat, Inuit country. Some of the most beautiful landscapes I had the chance to see are in our neighbours’ territory.
I have been to Nunavik many times, mostly in the communities in the Ungava Bay, but I recently spent two weeks on the coast of the Hudson Bay, in the communities of Puvirnituq, Inukjuak and Umiujaq.
We tend to think their land is dead and arid because of the absence of trees, but the tundra is so rich. Everywhere you look, there are medicinal plants, berries, moss and ponds that carry life. My mother spent a few weeks near the Koksoak River, and I think she describes it best – “This river is almost human, it’s alive.”
I feel the same way every time I spend time in the Arctic. The fact that Inuit thrived there and mastered such powerful elements for thousands of years is fascinating.
Inuit and Crees have been coexisting for a long time, sometimes in conflicts and sometimes as allies. Inuit come from another migration, so the languages we speak and our cultures are very different.
As a Cree, Inuit have always welcomed me warmly in their communities and their homes. I sometimes wonder why we don’t work together more often. Experiencing the realities of the Arctic puts things in perspective.
Canada’s dominant society tries to make us think poorly of the Inuit. The only things we hear about their municipalities are mostly horror stories.
I spent two weeks with my friends doing harm reduction and programming for girls aged 12 to 17. The program, Girls Inc., has been up and running since 2016, and offers activities and workshops to girls on the Hudson Bay coast.
My friends work their 9-to-5 job and make the time to coordinate this program in their town, holding activities from 7 to 11 in the evening. Inuit Nunangat is rich in people generous to share their time and their stories. I wish our people would connect more and bond in something else than trauma.
When my dad was in Parliament, I accompanied him on one of his tours of the Inuit communities. Everyone would say the same thing: “It’s the first time an MP visits this town.”
People are missing out. To me, it’s baffling that people go on expensive trips to resorts in Cuba or Mexico, when they could have a once-in-a-lifetime experience in the Arctic through Parcs Nunavik and municipalities.
I always leave a piece of my soul in a tundra whenever I depart Inuit Nunangat. I know I don’t go very often, so I embrace every moment of my visits. I almost feel empty when I leave, because the stories people tell about this vast territory are as beautiful as the land itself.