WRIGHT, Shelley




Author Tags: Environment, First Nations

In 2015, Shelley Wright won the 11th annual George Ryga Award for Social Awareness. Her ground-breaking first book, Our Ice Is Vanishing / Sikuvut Nunguliqtuq: A History of Inuit, Newcomers and Climate Change (McGill-Queens $39.95), reveals how the Nunavummiut (the people of Nunavit) have become the witnesses for climate change.

See full text of her acceptance speech below.

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In 1988, Pierre Berton, his publisher Avie Bennett and an entourage of approximately eighteen journalists undertook the most extraordinary book launch in Canadian history. They flew from Yellowknife to Inuvik, then took a helicopter north for about forty-five minutes to a Gulf Oil rig named Moliqpak, located 96 kilometres north of Tuktoyaktuk, in the Beaufort Sea. After being lowered by cable, one by one, onto the rig, they ate muskox and launched Berton's 672-page doorstopper about the search for the Northwest Passage, The Arctic Grail (M&S). The latitude of Inuvik is 68.3617 degrees north.

Hence Shelly Wright can boast the most northerly book launch in Canadian history for her ground-breaking history, Our Ice Is Vanishing / Sikuvut Nunguliqtuq: A History of Inuit, Newcomers, and Climate Change (McGill-Queens 2014), launched at a latitude of 74.2167 degrees north in Lancaster Sound. In early September of 2014, Wright launched her book in Lancaster Sound aboard the Akademik Sergei Vavilov, one of the ships that was involved in the successful search to find the ship for the doomed Franklin expedition. Wright was aboard the Akademik Sergei Vavilov about one week after the much-publicized discovery of the sunken Franklin ship, the finding of which was a pet project of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

As a professor of Aboriginal Studies at Langara College, Shelley Wright, having spent many years in the Arctic, has combined scientific and legal information with political and individual perspectives for an unprecedented overview of the Canadian Arctic and its people, Our Ice Is Vanishing / Sikuvut Nunguliqtuq: A History of Inuit, Newcomers, and Climate Change (McGill-Queens 2014). Focussing on Inuit history and culture, Ice Is Vanishing describes the legacies of exploration, intervention, and resilience alongside Wright's own recollections and photos--revealing how the Inuit have become the witnesses and messengers for climate change. Shelley Wright lived and travelled in the Arctic for more than ten years beginning with her experiences as the Northern Director of the Akitsiraq Law School based in Iqaluit.

Pierre Berton concluded his landmark study with the hope that eventually the Inuit could be properly included in the history of the Arctic. Some twenty-six years later Shelley Wright has literally gone a long way towards realizing Berton's vision. Berton visited the Arctic for a few days; Wright's knowledge goes deeper.

BOOKS:

Our Ice Is Vanishing / Sikuvut Nunguliqtuq: A History of Inuit, Newcomers, and Climate Change (McGill-Queens 2014) $39.95 978-0-7735-4462-8

[BCBW 2015]

Northwest Passage - West to East
Journal 2014



Here follows a blog that Shelley Wright wrote on her journey through Lancaster Sound to launch Our Ice is Vanishing aboard the M/V Akademik Sergey Vavilov


Day 1: Monday, September 8, 2014

Arrival in Cambridge Bay

We know we have an intrepid and adventurous group of passengers when they arrive in Edmonton to miserable rain and snow, only to leave on Day 1 of our journey for the sunny climes of the Northwest Passage. We had an early morning start leaving our hotel and travelling out to the airport where we waited for just “10 more minutes” until we boarded our First Air Charter flight to Yellowknife and Cambridge Bay. We’re off!

In Cambridge Bay we had a fascinating tour of the community including a stop at the community centre and library. The qulliq (Inuit lamp) was lit in honour of our arrival in the North. We were then treated to a performance of Inuit throat-singing, drum dancing and a fashion show.

We wrapped up our day on board the good ship Sergey Vavilov with a thorough security clearance, sorting out our luggage, getting settled and having our first of many lovely dinners. Then it was onward through the night into Queen Maud Gulf and to Jenny Lind Island. What we didn’t know was that we were also at the fulcrum of an important day in Canadian history in which our good ship had been a major participant!



Day 2: Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Jenny Lind Island

Today was a wonderful beginning to our journey through the Northwest Passage as we left Cambridge Bay behind and headed east into Queen Maud Gulf. After breakfast we set out for our first land expedition on Jenny Lind Island (named after that famous Swedish songstress of the 19th century, also known as the Nightingale!) We discovered that it was intrepid explorer Dr. John Rae who actually named the island after his favourite chanteuse.

On land we were enthralled by a mosaic of beautiful rock, lichen, mountain avens and the tracks and bones of muskox, fox, seal, lemmings and birds. Our “long walkers” were also treated to a sighting of muskoxen off in the distance. In examining the bones we found, our cultural advisors were able to tell us the story of life and death on the land and ice surrounding this remote and beautiful island.

After getting back on board, the Sergey Vavilov headed north into the ice in the hopes of pushing through overnight to our next stop. Victoria Strait was strewn with islands of old ice that had broken off from the giant pack circling the North Pole. We kept a close watch out for wildlife. Is that a polar bear, or just a chunk of yellow ice?!

But our day ended with some wonderful news. One of the lost Franklin Expedition ships had been found just north of where we were heading through Victoria Strait to the west of King William Island. Our ship had been instrumental in making the find just the day before we boarded her in Cambridge Bay. A congratulatory letter from Prime Minister Stephen Harper was read out to us on board. What a way to start our journey through the very passage he tried, and failed, to find.



Day 3: Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Ice

Today we woke up to pack ice through which our ship had been moving through the night. Although we still had a long way to go to get to our next stop, we were treated to a spectacular field of broken ice stretching around us. The sun briefly winked in and out, giving our view sudden glows of white, blue, gray and gold. The patterns took on a quality of abstract art.

The day was spent enjoying a series of fascinating talks by our Adventure Canada staff discussing everything from rocks to photography to an introduction to Inuit art by Andrew Qappik. Suzie Evyakgotailak gave a talk on her journey from Kugluktuk to Ulukhaktok by snow mobile in 2011.

But our day included our first sighting of a polar bear, out on the ice looking for seals. At one moment he seemed as curious about us as we were about him!





Day 4: Thursday, September 11, 2014

Bellot Strait and Fort Ross

Rough seas and snow did not deter us as we moved north towards Bellot Strait. The seas calmed down in the narrow passage that separates the northernmost point on the North American continent from the Arctic Archipelago of islands stretching far above us. The beautiful cliffs on either side of us through the Strait were skimmed with snow. The mist ahead of us gave the Strait a lovely sense of mystery. We slowly travelled through until we reached our landing spot for the day.

Fort Ross appeared as two tiny buildings lost in a forbidding landscape. The Hudson’s Bay Post here is well-preserved and still used as a shelter by the very few passing travellers who need shelter and provisions. Our landing in the zodiacs was rough and cold, but everyone enjoyed the adventure and the feel of solid ground under our feet. We went back that day feeling like true explorers! And at dinner we dressed up as our favourite explorer, including two Dora the Explorers.





Day 5: Friday, September 12, 2014

Thule Sites and Birds

Our first stop of the day was a visit to a significant Thule site. More snow lay in soft drifts up to the great limestone cliffs that towered over the site. The ancestors of modern Inuit lived here on a seasonal basis, hunting the rich marine wild life found in this area. There are many rings of stones with whale bone debris indicating a long occupation. Off in the distance another lonely Hudson’s Bay Post stood out against the snow.

Then we moved on to our zodiac cruise of Prince Leopold Island. The sea was like glass dotted with drifting ice. Birds circled overhead around and below the towering cliffs. Fulmars, kittiwakes and thick-billed murres splashed in the water and circled overhead, while glaucous gulls kept a lookout on the top of every bit of floating ice. We witnessed an Arctic drama of birds, including fuzzy young fulmars beginning their long journey with their fathers swimming down to Labrador while predatory gulls circled overhead.

In the evening we had our first “kitchen party” where we were entertained by singing, jokes and a lot of laughter. We had hoped to end the night with the aurora borealis, but alas it was too cloudy.



Day 6: Saturday, September 13, 2014

Beechey Island

This is the site of Franklin’s first wintering stop before heading south towards the final disastrous end to his expedition. It’s a wide and bleak place, haunted by the ghosts of the past. We landed in stiff winds and cold temperatures, then walked up to the four lonely graves. Our guides kept a careful watch out for polar bears as this is nanuq territory. We zodiaced down the beach to Northumberland House where the Franklin search parties set up a base of operations in 1850.

Our day ended with a showing of “Diet of Souls” by John Houston. A great day in this incredible place.



Day 7 and 8: Sunday and Monday, September 14-15, 2014

Arctic Bay and Pond Inlet

Over the past two days we travelled further east into Lancaster Sound reaching the community of Arctic Bay on Sunday. We spend a few hours in this lovely community where local people greeted us with throat singing, a tent lit by a qulliq, traditional caribou clothing and a warm welcome from elders. We were bussed into town for a tour of the village. Some of us walked out to Thule sites located up the beach while others bought necessities from the local Co-op.

Later that evening we regrouped in the lounge for the first ever book launch in the Northwest Passage. Shelley Wright introduced her book Our Ice is Vanishing/Sikuvut Nunguliqtuq: A History of Inuit, Newcomers, and Climate Change. It was a truly memorable evening.

The next day we sailed into Navy Board Inlet past Bylot Island towards the community of Pond Inlet. The setting is one of the most magnificent in the Arctic with the mountains and glaciers of Bylot Island rising across the water. There we again disembarked for a tour of the town and a wonderful cultural performance at the Visitors’ Centre. There were also carvings, jewellery and other artwork for sale. The people were so warm and welcoming some of us were reluctant to leave when it came time to go back on board our ship. As the snow began to fall, we sailed out of the inlet towards the open water of Baffin Bay and Davis Strait. The next leg of our adventure awaits us in the Icy Fiord.



Day 9 and 10: Tuesday and Wednesday, September 16-17, 2014

Icy Fiord and Crossing Davis Strait

We sailed away from Pond Inlet with some regret, and headed out into Baffin Bay. But, before crossing Davis Strait we had an incredible morning in Buchan Gulf and Icy Fiord. We all got out onto the zodiacs expecting a fairly short and chilly tour. More than two hours later we hardly wanted to leave. The cliffs towering above the deep water were like something out of a Nordic myth. Snow covered most of the landscape. Small glaciers plunged down from the heights above us like waterfalls frozen in time. As we left the ship we could look back and see how tiny was our sturdy vessel and how immense the land around us. Ringed seals kept popping up around us, curious about who their visitors might be.

But the best was still to come. Far up the fiord a mother polar bear and her two cubs were spotted swimming in the water. They swam to shore and moved slowly up the cliff face as we approached. It was pure Arctic magic. We kept our distance, and our viewing short, so as not to distress the mother and cubs too much. Mama bear constantly checked behind her to make sure her cubs were right behind her. They were fat little babies less than a year old. All three looked healthy and utterly at home.

Going back to the ship we stopped to investigate a kill site. Our best guess was that it was a seal that had been hunted and eaten by the mother bear. Two or three ravens were circling around looking to scavenge the kill. And then we spotted an arctic fox, still with his silver coat. He was chasing the ravens away to protect his share of the kill. A blood spot on a nearby piece of ice revealed that at least one raven got his share off to a safe place. A whole Arctic drama of seal, bear, fox and raven was being played out right in front of us!

Over the past day and a half we have been sailing out into Davis Strait north and east. We enjoyed a quieter day with lots of presentations and interesting workshops and, of course, the Arctic beard fashion show! And now, Greenland lies just ahead.



Day 11 and 12: Thursday and Friday, September 18-19, 2014

Karrat Fiord and Uummannaaq

Our crossing of Davis Strait proved to be pretty smooth sailing despite rumours of a hurricane to our south. We arrived in the incredibly beautiful Karrat Fiord where we made a landing, spending a few hours walking over tundra, turf and sturdy willows hugging the ground. Someone spotted an Arctic hare, but most of us simply enjoyed a beautiful day overlooking the magnificent fiord dotted with icebergs.

The next day we sailed to Qilakitsoq where we climbed up to the rocky crevasse where the bodies of five women and two children were exhumed in 1972. The cold dry air had preserved their bodies, including their clothing, into a startlingly desiccated remembrance of what they had been. They had been dead for 500 years. The reason for their deaths and the mass burial remains a mystery. The little bay where we landed was filled with the spirits of some ancient ritual we could not understand.

After our landing we returned to the ship and headed into the lovely little community of Uummannaaq where we spent the afternoon visiting the children’s home, museum, coffee shop and blubber house. And what better way to end the day with – Disco Night!





Wright wins Ryga Award
Article 2015


from Beverly Cramp
On June 11, Shelley Wright received the $2,000 George Ryga Award for Social Awareness at Vancouver Public Library.

Her ground-breaking Our Ice Is Vanishing / Sikuvut Nunguliqtuq: A History of Inuit, Newcomers and Climate Change (McGill-Queens $39.950 reveals how the Nunavummiut 9the people of Nunavit0 have become the witnesses for climate change.

Wright lived and travelled in the Arctic for more than ten years as the Northern Director of the Akitsiraq Law School based in Iqaluit.

Now a professor of Aboriginal Studies at Langara College, she has combined scientific and legal information, along with political and individual perspectives, to elucidate how serious are the effects of climate change in the Arctic.

“The rapidity of the melting of summer ice in the Arctic over the past five years is unprecedented,” she writes, “both since satellite records began to be kept in 1979 and in the much longer oral history of Indigenous peoples.

“An ice-free summer in the Arctic Ocean was not predicted to occur until the middle or end of this century. Now, according to some predictions, it may occur by the end of this decade.”

Wright firmly places much blame on human behaviour.

“Rapid economic development in Asia and sustained industrial activity in the ‘developed’ world underlie much of the human-made global warming that is currently changing our weather, atmosphere, and oceans.

“One thing is clear: as global temperatures rise, Arctic temperatures rise faster. We may well have pushed polar ecosystems into a ‘positive feedback loop’ that could be unstoppable.”

Simply put, with more heat from global warming, the more melting there will be.

And the more melting, the more heat because the white ice acts as a reflector of the sun’s rays.
With less ice, more of the sun’s warmth affects the Earth.

Wright quotes Inuit elders such as Cornelius Nutaraq to explain the impact of global warming.
“When I was a child, there would be much more snow … to build igluit [houses],” he says. “There was enough snow for a slope to form from the top of the hills on downwards. There would be snow all the way up. You could go all the way to the top by dogteam. You could also go upwards from the point. You could build igluit anywhere it sloped downwards. There is not that much snow anymore.”

It is not just the vanishing ice that is creating havoc in the Arctic.

“Inuit sometimes ask what European Canadians are doing on their land in the first place,” Wright writes. “By what right does any non-Inuit nation claim sovereignty over the land or sea of the Arctic?”

She goes on to cite First Nations author Lucassie Nutaraaluk talking about qallunaat—the Inuit word for Southern Canadians meaning ‘big eyebrows.’
“After England defeated Germany in the First World War, the qallunaat came up here and claimed our territory. Our ancestors were never compensated, never paid even though the qallunaat came up here and took over our land.

“I know our ancestors were very skilled people. They had very few tools but they survived. They were very strong and very capable. Thanks to their ability to survive we are here today. I know if we tried today to do what our ancestors did, we would die because we don’t have the same skills.”

As well as receiving the Ryga Award, Shelley Wright can now also boast the most northerly book launch in Canadian history.

Our Ice is Vanishing was launched at a latitude of 74.2167 degrees north in Lancaster Sound, aboard the Akademik Sergei Vavilov, one of the ships that was involved in the successful search to find the ship for the doomed Franklin expedition.

Wright was aboard the Akademik Sergei Vavilov in September of 2014, about one week after the much-publicized discovery of the sunken Franklin ship, the finding of which was a pet project of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The judges for the ryga award this year included retired Ukrainian Canadian archivist George Brandak and George Ryga’s sister Anne Chudyk, who came to Vancouver from Summerland to present the award.

RUNNERS-UP
• Unmanned: Drone Warfare and Global Security (Pluto Press/Between the Lines $31.95) by Ann Rogers and John Hill.

• Meltdown in Tibet: China’s Reckless Destruction of Ecosystems from the Highlands of Tibet to the Deltas of Asia (Raincoast $31.50) by Michael Buckley.

Vanishing:78-0-7735-4462-8

Unmanned: 978-1-77113-153-7

Meltdown: 978-1-137-27954-5


==========================


BOOKS ENTERED IN THE 2015 GEORGE RYGA AWARD FOR SOCIAL AWARENESS COMPETITION, LISTED ALPHABETICALLY BY AUTHOR

Ellen in Pieces (HarperCollins) by Caroline Adderson / fiction

On Being Here to Stay: Treaties and Aboriginal Rights in Canada (University of Toronto) by Michael Asch

Spilt Coffee (Solstice Publishing) by Greg Bauder / fiction

Killer Weed: Marijuana Growers, Media and Justice (University of Toronto Press) by Susan Boyd and Connie I. Carter

Meltdown in Tibet (Raincoast) by Michael Buckley

The Delusionist (Anvil) by Grant Buday / fiction

The Outer Harbour: Stories (Arsenal Pulp) by Wayde Compton / fiction

Invisible Girl (filidhbooks) by Cherise Craney

dream/arteries (Talonbooks) by Phinder Dulai / poetry

High Clear Bell of Morning (D&M) by Ann Eriksson / fiction

Shore to Shore: The Art of Ts’uts’umutl Luke Marston (Harbour) by Suzanne Fournier

Chaos Inside Thunderstorms (Ronsdale) by Garry Gottfriedson / poetry

Worth Dying For: Canada’a Mission to Train Police in the World’s Failing States (Random House) by Terry Gould

What Makes Olga Run? (Random House) by Bruce Grierson

In Praise of Mixed Religion: The Syncretism Solution in a Multifaith World (McGill-Queens) by William H. Harrison

The Voyage of the Komagata Maru: The Sikh Challenge to Canada’s Colour Bar (UBC Press) by Hugh J. M. Johnston
Eve Joseph

In the Slender Margin (HarperCollins) by Eve Joseph

Back to the Red Road: A Story of Survival, Redemption and Love (Caitlin) by Florence Kaefer and Edward Gamblin

Heart and Soil: The Revolutionary Good of Gardens (Harbour) Des Kennedy

The Force of Family: Repatriation, Kinship and Memory on Haida Gwaii (University of Toronto) by Cara Krmpotich

How Does a Single Blade of Grass Thank the Sun? (Nightwood) by Doretta Lau / fiction

Listen to the Squawking Chicken (Random House) by Elaine Lui

Things I heard about you (Nightwood) by Alex Leslie / poetry

Writing with Grace: A Journey beyond Down Syndrome (D&M) by Judy McFarlane

Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design (Anchor/Random House) by Charles Montgomery

Poachers, Polluters and Politics: A Fisher Officer’s Career (Harbour) by Randy Nelson

The Compassionate Hunter’s Guidebook: Hunting from the Heart (New Society) by Miles Olson

North of Normal (HarperCollins) by Cea Sunrise Person

Patient Zero: Solving the Mysteries of Deadly Epidemics (Annick) by Marilee Peters

The Dark Side of the Rainbow (CAP Publishing) by Caren Powell / fiction

What I Want to Tell Goes Like This: Stories (Nightwood) Matt Rader / fiction

Welcome to Resisterville: American Dissidents in British Columbia (UBC Press) by Kathleen Rodgers
Hill, John, Rogers, Ann UNMANNED

Unmanned: Drone Warfare and Global Security (Pluto/Between the Lines) by Ann Rogers and John Hill

Pedal (Caitlin) by Chelsea Rooney

Pluck (Nightwood) by Laisha Rosnau / poetry

Gender Failure (Arsenal Pulp) by Rae Spoon and Ivan E. Coyote

Ancient Pathways, Ancestral Knowledge: Ethnobotany and Ecological Wisdom of Indigenous Peoples of Northwestern (McGill-Queens) by Nancy J. Turner

Base Camp: 40 Days on Everest (Caitlin) by Dianne Whelan

Cycling with the Dragon (Nightwood) by Elaine Woo / poetry

Our Ice is Vanishing / Sikuvut Nunguliqtuq: A History of Inuit, Newcomers, and Climate Change (McGill-Queens) by Shelley Wright


George Ryga Award
Acceptance Speech (2015)



First of all I would like to acknowledge that we are on the traditional unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-waututh peoples. Thank you to the First Nations of Greater Vancouver for allowing us to be here.
Next, thank you to
• Alan Twigg and John Lent of Okanagan College for first establishing the George Ryga Award for Social Awareness
• everyone at Bookworld
• judges George Brandak, Beverly Cramp and Anne Chudyk
• Vancouver Public Library for hosting this event
• Fellow nominees, especially award finalists Michael Buckley, Eva Joseph, Miles Olson, John Hill and Ann Rogers
• And to everyone here for coming to this prestigious event.
Congratulations to Wayson Choy for your amazing contribution to Canadian literature and this well-deserved recognition for a lifetime’s achievement.
In 1967 Canada celebrated its 100th anniversary as a nation. In that same year, partially to celebrate that event, George Ryga’s first and most famous play “The Ecstasy of Rita Joe” was commissioned and presented at the Vancouver Playhouse. The play was inspired by the death of a young Aboriginal woman in one of Vancouver’s poorest neighbourhoods. The play tells the story of a young Shuswap (Secwepemec) woman who comes to the city looking for a better life, but instead finds herself on “an odyssey through hell” (in Ryga’s words) ending in her rape and murder. The play starred Frances Hyland as Rita, August Schellenberg as her friend Jaimie Paul and Chief Dan George of the Tsleil-waututh Nation as her father. The play has become an iconic Canadian depiction of injustice and a representation of George Ryga’s passionate commitment to social awareness.
In another two years Canada will be celebrating its 150th anniversary and George Ryga’s play will be 50 years old. And yet his depiction of the treatment of a young Aboriginal woman could have been written today. From 1980 to 2012 more than 1200 Aboriginal women have gone missing or been murdered in Canada. This national disgrace is closely associated with the experiences of many Aboriginal women and men in residential schools, as we were all just reminded of during last week’s release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Summary Report. The treatment of the more than 150,000 First Nations, Metis and Inuit children stolen from their families between the Confederation of Canada as a nation in 1867, until 1996 when the last school closed, has been described as “cultural genocide”. I would not use the qualifier “cultural”. It was and is genocide.
Facing these truths is hard. But it is essential. I am proud to receive an award inspired by the work of a great Canadian author such as George Ryga. Bringing awareness to Aboriginal issues in the Arctic was the inspiration for my own book.
The impact of European and Canadian penetration of the North on its people and environment has been written about before. But the Inuit’s point of view often goes missing. I wrote the book partly to tell of my own steep learning curve about the Arctic and its people, but also to give the Inuit point of view in their own words as much as an outsider like myself can do.
Colonization is now twinned with climate change in bringing enormous changes to a part of Canada most of us know almost nothing about. It’s not just about polar bears, it’s also about a world of ice inhabited by people who have earned over thousands of years “the right to be cold” in the words of another great Canadian author and Aboriginal activist, Siila Watt-Cloutier. And yet Inuit find themselves increasingly resisting the demands of southerners or qallunaat like ourselves who bring their own agendas to the Arctic. Whether it’s about oil and gas, mineral extraction, uranium mining, military strategy, sovereignty claims or well-meaning environmental activists focussing on seal hunting and polar bears, the knowledge of the Inuit themselves can too often be drowned out. Many Inuit find themselves overwhelmed by poverty, substance abuse, violence, poor health, hugely expensive food and shelter, and the accompanying hopelessness to the point where young Aboriginal boys and men kill themselves at 30 times the Canadian average. Young Inuit are more likely to commit suicide or end up on the streets or in jail then graduate from high school. I was witness to some of this tragedy and learned to leave some of my own southern expectations behind.
But this bleak picture is also changing. Inuit are determined to both keep their Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, or traditional knowledge, as well as developing a better future for themselves and their children. They have also been leaders in creating awareness of climate change, which will affect all of us. Reconciliation is about both learning and accepting the truth of our history, but also in listening to and respecting the knowledge of Aboriginal peoples on whose land we live.
Beneath the debate over climate change, Inuit rights, and Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic lies a rich and complex mosaic of geography and history. Much of this intersection between space and time is laden with passion, death, ignorance, and loss. It is also powerfully beautiful. . . .
[T]he most barren landscape can hide small miracles of persistent flowering beauty. The long dark of winter can slowly lighten into a flush of pink and lavender where before there was only cold dark snow. . . . For the adventurous traveller or searcher for wilderness beauty, the Arctic is a place where belugas sing like canaries and birds called thick-bill murres dive into the sea depths as easily as tiny whales. For most people living in “the South”, the Arctic is an exotic space on the edge of our maps of the modern world. For Canadians of European descent, both English and French, our belief in the conquest and control of a vast hinterland has determined who we are as a culture and a people – as a sovereign state, if not as a unified nation. This in turn fuels the Canada government’s desire to establish secure claims of legal sovereignty over the Arctic up to and include the North Pole.
For the Inuit, this is their home.
(Excerpts from Wright, Our Ice Is Vanishing/Sikuvut Nunguliqtuq: A History of Inuit, Newcomers, and Climate Change (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2014) pages 298 and 299.