Bye-bye to Cambridge Bay, NU

DSCN9928When I arrived in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, this past September, I caught the last few warm, dry days of this year. And there were lots of snow buntings to make things lively.

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The view from my friends’ house — where I would end up spending nearly two months, thanks to their incredible hospitality — included a view over to Mt. Pelly, about 20 kilometres away to the east.10486129_10203881751476252_362758816693141826_n

During those first days of this year’s visit to Cambridge Bay, I took many long walks — and I visited with my many friends in the western Nunavut town of 1,700.

But I couldn’t help tracking and writing stories, first for this blog, and then, finally again, for Nunatsiaq News, as I returned to work.

There was no boredom ever for me during my visit, even on weekends.

So, what should you do if you’re lucky enough to visit Cambridge Bay — located a couple of hours by air north from Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories?10636227_10203881777476902_4135097640546042607_n

Here are some ideas:

• If you are around when a barge comes in, go down and watch everything be offloaded and stacked up on shore.10486129_10203881751356249_1883627419365031161_n

• Keep an eye on what’s happening at the dock — that’s where I met the folks from the ocean observatory and the yacht, the Latitude. Boats and ships travelling the Northwest Passage are always docked there in August and September.10513324_10203912169676688_4055274122942086626_n

• Walk to the airport and back. Have an expresso or latte at the Arctic Closet café at the airport.

On the return trip you’ll get a great view of Cambridge Bay with Mt. Pelly in the distance.10612861_10203901284724571_7197797717356445544_n

And you can check out the municipal golf course, called “Many Pebbles.”

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You can also get a view over to the Cam Main North Warning site (what do they do there anyway?)IMG_0507

• Head over to the plateau on the way to Mt. Pelly to see what’s happening at the construction site of the Canadian High Arctic Research Station, set to open in 2017.

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After that, continue on and peek into the dump — it’s probably Nunavut’s best landfill, but still some of the trash is whipped around by the wind and most of what can’t be reused locally is reduced by open burning.DSCN9893

Further on you’ll find cabins as well as the cemeteries, old and new.DSC04110

Then, if you cross the bridge to your right, you’ll walk past the site of the old town site as well as a new park commemorating residential school students — and get a great view of the town beyond.DSCN9677

A little further on yet, you’ll arrive at the site of the Maud, Roald Amundsen’s ship, which may not be there too long if Norwegians are successful in 2015 in bringing the Maud back to Norway.DSCN9682

Down the road, there’s the newly renovated stone church built by Catholic missionaries, which celebrated its 60th anniversary in September 2014.

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And close by is the Eagle, which ended up on shore there in 1954, when missionary Father  André Steinmann bought the ship — but then was transferred back east.

Near to that, you might also still find some remnants of the Loran tower, erected in 1947, to be a navigational beacon for aircraft. Many of the community’s first houses were built using its plywood shipping crates. The Loran was torn down in 2014.DSCN9870

That’s a bit of a hike but you can always wave people down for lifts back to town!

• Walk around Cambridge Bay, check out the Northern and Co-op stores and see how much it costs to eat. And look at the bulletin boards to see what’s going on. There’s always some meeting or activity.IMG_0589

• Visit the new Kitikmeot Inuit Association building.

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• Go to the May Hakongak Library and cultural centre: check out the cultural displays and look for some of the many Arctic-related books I gave to the library in 2011.1385026_10204200137915714_2356068575569011207_n

Elders, who work in the back on projects, put some of their handiwork for sale, too.

• Visit the Arctic Coast visitors centre — you can find more pamphlets there on what to do.

• Go to the Elks club early Friday evening and find someone to sign you in — you’ll make new friends and may be able to hang on to a drink token as a souvenir.

You use a drink token like this one at the Elks' bar. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

• Go to Sunday service (in English and Inuinnaqtun) at St. George’s Anglican Church — seeing the stained glass windows are worth going to see and you’ll be welcomed warmly.10590417_10203887713345295_8169413709948011638_n

• Get up early and watch the sun rise.

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• Don’t miss any of the sunsets (but to see them you’ll have to go outside the days of 24-hour sunlight and darkness.) They’re all different.

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• Eat lots of Arctic char.

• Try to make friends with people who have vehicles and cabins — they’ll be able to navigate the bumpy roads and take you to see Mt. Pelly or Gravel Pit and beyond. Maybe you’ll see a muskox along the way.DSC04116

And you won’t want to miss a visit to Mt. Pelly.

From every angle, and particularly at sunset, when it catches the last rays, this flat esker of a mountain looks great.10696390_10204115681524357_5328699515534850929_n

• Arrive with good shoes, rubber boots and boots with spikes for when the roads freeze up and get slippery.

When I left Cambridge Bay in the end of October 2014, everything already looked different: the days were shrinking,  temperatures often dropped into the minus 30 Cs with wind and my middle-weight parka was too light. And I was busier, too, back to work, covering back-to-back meetings, with less time to enjoy the scenery.

The view looked different from the front porch, too. But I was rewarded with amazing sights, including this pink-lit scene of ice crystals in the air at sunset as I walked back after work. Like heaven.

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Can’t wait to get back.

Now that I am back at work, you won’t find as many new blog entries.

But if you missed previous posts, including the “Like an Iceberg” series, take a look here:

Positive attitude key to suicide prevention: Inupiaq TV star

CamBay ocean observatory stimulates local interest

My Cambridge Bay weekend

Nunavut, still Canada’s youngest, fastest growing jurisdiction: StatsCan

A makeover for CamBay’s ocean observatory

Canada ignores Arctic infrastructure: veteran ice pilot

New roof, new life for CamBay’s old stone church

Two Arctic ships, two explorers: Franklin and Amundsen

Today, Arctic explorers take cruise ships

And from the “Like an Iceberg” series:

Like an iceberg: on being a journalist in the Arctic

Like an iceberg, 1991…cont.

Like an iceberg, 1991…more

Like an iceberg, 1992, “Shots in the dark” 

Like an iceberg, 1992, “Sad stories”

Like an iceberg, 1993, “Learning the language of the snows”

Like an iceberg, 1993 cont., “Spring”

Like an iceberg, 1993 cont., “Chesterfield Inlet”

Like an iceberg, 1993 cont., more “Chesterfield Inlet”

Like an iceberg, 1994: “Seals and more”

Like an iceberg, 1994, cont., “No news is good news”

Like an iceberg, 1994 cont., more “No news is good news”

Like an iceberg, 1994 cont., “A place with four names”

Like an iceberg, 1995, “More sad stories”

Like an iceberg, 1995 cont., “No place like Nome”

Like an iceberg, 1995 cont., “Greenland”

Like an iceberg, 1995, cont. “Secrets”

Like an iceberg, 1996, “Hard Lessons”

Like an iceberg, 1996 cont., “Working together”

Like an iceberg, 1996 cont., “At the edge of the world”

Like an iceberg, 1996, more “At the edge of the world”

Like an iceberg, 1996, cont. “Choices” 

Like an iceberg, 1997, “Qaggiq”

Like an iceberg, 1997, more “Qaggiq”

Like an iceberg, 1997, “Qaggiq” cont.

Like an iceberg, 1997 cont., “Qaggiq and hockey”

Like an iceberg, 1997 cont., “Brain surgery in POV”

Like an iceberg, 1997 cont.: “Masks on an island”

Like an iceberg, 1997 cont., “Abusers on the pulpit”

Like an iceberg, 1998, “Bearing gifts”

Like an iceberg, 1998 cont., “At the top of the world”

Like an iceberg, 1998 cont., “A bad week” 

Like an iceberg, 1998 cont.: more from “A bad week”

Like an iceberg, 1998 cont., “Memories”

Like an iceberg, 1999, “The avalanche”

Like an iceberg, 1999 cont., “An exorcism, followed by a penis cutting”

Like an iceberg, 1999 cont., more on “the Avalanche”

Like an iceberg, 1999 cont., “Robins in the Arctic”

Like an iceberg, 1999 cont., “Fossil hunting”

Like an iceberg, 1999 cont., “Where forests grew” 

Like an iceberg, 1999 cont.,”And then there was Nunavut”

Like an iceberg … the end

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Like an iceberg, 1999 cont.,”And then there was Nunavut”

Like an iceberg, 1999 cont.:”And then there was Nunavut”

Looking into the Nunavut legislature. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

Looking into the Nunavut legislature. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

The hopes of many Inuit were raised by the the creation of Nunavut — Canada’s newest (and Inuit-majority) territory — in 1999.

Nunavut also gave me an opportunity to sit still for a while.

With its moments of drama and boredom, the Nunavut legislature’s sittings unfolded like a slow-moving television show, and the “ledge” became a cozy place to pass the hours. The legislative chamber’s shape was reminiscent of an igloo, the chairs and gallery benches covered in sealskin. Pangnirtung tapestries and Baker Lake wall hangings decorated its walls, and the legislative mace was a long narwhal tusk.

Mace at the Nunavut legislature. (PHOTO BY DAVID MURPHY/NUNATSIAQ NEWS)

Mace at the Nunavut legislature. (PHOTO BY DAVID MURPHY/NUNATSIAQ NEWS)

When in session, the legislature’s schedule ran with a calming regularity, unlike the flow of news. The day’s session always began on time. There were the predictable orders of the day: statements, questions and tabled documents.

I sat in the gallery behind the health minister. It was my favourite spot  because I could see everyone— and nestle there for hours.

The antics of the rookie MLAs provided me with much entertainment. During a memorable afternoon in November 1999, there was the last-minute walkout of members David Iqaqrialu, Jobie Nutaraq and Enoki Irqittuq, just before the final vote on Bill 3, which was to give formal assent to Nunavut’s short-lived unified time zone.

Nunavut’s decentralized administration stretched across three time zones, making communication difficult for government officials whose days began and ended at different times, depending on where they lived.

So to some people, putting Nunavut into one time zone looked like a great idea. The idea was especially popular in Nunavut’s western Kitikmeot region, where the work day lagged two hours behind that of Iqaluit, the capital. But in the east, many residents complained that in the winter, darkness would come too early under their re-adjusted time zone.

As the MLAs against the single-time zone sulked outside, other members scurried to form a quorum. But even this tension is short-lived. The members finally came back to vote against the bill’s adoption.

But they learned the Government of Nunavut had already adopted a regulation putting the time zone change into effect.

The members voiced their discontent in a scene that reminded me of television courtroom programs because they sounded stilted and scripted. Premier Paul Okalik then said the move to put Nunavut into a single time zone — which was later repealed — hadn’t been done behind their backs.

“This is not new. We’re been seeking options for the benefit of Nunavut,” Okalik said. “Irrespective of where you are in Nunavut, you can call me at the same time.”

During more boring moments in the legislature, some ministers read newspapers or pass notes to each other, and, at other times, they yawned. If nothing interesting was happening, I looked at what the legislators are wearing.

The Premier often wore a plush sealskin vest. On some days, up to six of the 19 members followed his fashion lead, turning up in sealskin vests, sometimes with designs or even dyed in variety of colours. The choice of what members decided to wear, however, wasn’t entirely about comfort or good looks — they said it was also a way of showcasing Nunavut’s sealskin industry.

MLA Donald Havioyak wears a colourful tie to the ledge, although he associates ties with residential school. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

MLA Donald Havioyak wears a colourful tie to the ledge, although he associates ties with residential school. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

Some sported colourful blue ties with Nunavut’s distinctive polar bear logo or ties featuring animals from geese to bears. The occasional tie was made from sealskin. Instead of a tie, one MLA preferred to wear a string bolo topped with an ivory drum dancer.

Although Kugluktuk MLA Donald Havioyak said he didn’t like ties “because they remind me of residential school” — where he was obliged to wear one — Havioyak wore one anyway —and picked cheerful designs for his ties.

“If you’re well-dressed, you’re respecting the people you represent,”  said Nunavut’s sole woman member and minister of public works, Manitok Thompson.

MLA Manitok Thompson in her amautik. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

MLA Manitok Thompson in her amautik. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

Thompson’s outfits alternated between professional suits and a selection of three traditional amautiit, decorated with beads.

“I wear them on special occasions — or if something stressful is going on,” Thompson said.

Others in the chamber wore sealskin or caribou kamik boots, sometimes  in combination with silapaq parkas. Occasionally sealskin boots also showed up along with suits. Some always stuck to conventional southern-style suits, because they said they were more comfortable.

MLA Peter Kattuk wears a white silapaq to the Nunavut legislature. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

MLA Peter Kattuk wears a white silapaq to the Nunavut legislature. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

White dress shirts, however, were not seen as often because, as one member confided, these were particularly hard to find at Iqaluit’s poorly-stocked retail stores.

As a result, members were even known to borrow white shirts from each other to wear on special occasions.

Colonial apparel from an earlier era was also displayed by the stiff traditional black and white robes worn by the speaker and his staff.

Pages in the Nunavut legislature sit outside in the foyer. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

Pages in the Nunavut legislature sit outside in the foyer. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

Pages, usually found outside the ledge in the teenage uniform of jeans and t-shirts, wore a variety of different traditional Inuit clothing from each of Nunavut’s three regions.

The clothing was designed to combine Inuit Qaujimajatuqaangit, that is, Inuit language and traditions, with Canada’s parliamentary system of government.

Nunavut health minister Ed Picco, Commissioner Piita Irniq and Speaker Kevin O'Brien pose in the legislature. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

Nunavut health minister Ed Picco, Commissioner Piita Irniq and Speaker Kevin O’Brien pose in the legislature. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

And diversity was mirrored not just in what people wore, but also in the many languages spoken in the legislature. Nunavut’s Speaker should choose between five different ways to say “thank you,” from nakormik to koana, while business was often conducted in several dialects of Inuktitut as well as in French and English, Canada’s two official languages.

But even this legislature was not immune to the social problems outside. The first speaker, as well as the education minister, were both charged with serious criminal offences — sexual assaults — within months of the new territory’s creation.

But at least this new government wanted to focus on solutions and put these solutions into bite-size pieces that I could handle. As I left the legislature, I stopped and looked at the art exhibits in the foyer, or chatted with friends, before zipping up my parka and heading out to the windy streets of Iqaluit.

Like an iceberg wraps up June 2.

You can read earlier instalments here:

Like an iceberg: on being a journalist in the Arctic

Like an iceberg, 1991…cont.

Like an iceberg, 1991…more

Like an iceberg, 1992, “Shots in the dark” 

Like an iceberg, 1992, “Sad stories”

Like an iceberg, 1993, “Learning the language of the snows”

Like an iceberg, 1993 cont., “Spring”

Like an iceberg, 1993 cont., “Chesterfield Inlet”

Like an iceberg, 1993 cont., more “Chesterfield Inlet”

Like an iceberg, 1994: “Seals and more”

Like an iceberg, 1994, cont., “No news is good news”

Like an iceberg, 1994 cont., more “No news is good news”

Like an iceberg, 1994 cont., “A place with four names”

Like an iceberg, 1995, “More sad stories”

Like an iceberg, 1995 cont., “No place like Nome”

Like an iceberg, 1995 cont., “Greenland”

Like an iceberg, 1995, cont. “Secrets”

Like an iceberg, 1996, “Hard Lessons”

Like an iceberg, 1996 cont., “Working together”

Like an iceberg, 1996 cont., “At the edge of the world”

Like an iceberg, 1996, more “At the edge of the world”

Like an iceberg, 1996, cont. “Choices” 

Like an iceberg, 1997, “Qaggiq”

Like an iceberg, 1997, more “Qaggiq”

Like an iceberg, 1997, “Qaggiq” cont.

Like an iceberg, 1997 cont., “Qaggiq and hockey”

Like an iceberg, 1997 cont., “Brain surgery in POV”

Like an iceberg, 1997 cont.: “Masks on an island”

Like an iceberg, 1997 cont., “Abusers on the pulpit”

Like an iceberg, 1998, “Bearing gifts”

Like an iceberg, 1998 cont., “At the top of the world”

Like an iceberg, 1998 cont., “A bad week” 

Like an iceberg, 1998 cont.: more from “A bad week”

Like an iceberg, 1998 cont., “Memories”

Like an iceberg, 1999, “The avalanche”

Like an iceberg, 1999 cont., “An exorcism, followed by a penis cutting”

Like an iceberg, 1999 cont., more on “the Avalanche”

Like an iceberg, 1999 cont., “Robins in the Arctic”

Like an iceberg, 1999 cont., “Fossil hunting”

Like an iceberg, 1999 cont., “Where forests grew”