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Inniffum, the hunter and fisherman


Navalik Tologanak/NNSL photo
I am an 11 year old seal hunter from Pangnirtung and my Ananattiak helped me skin and clean the seal I caught. Here is Brian Kilabuk, showing his seal skin which his grandmother Mary skinned and cleaned and prepared the meat for everyone to enjoy a feast. It was so nice to meet you Inniffum!

Welcome to Cambridge Bay, a beautiful busy little town on the tip of Victoria Island.
We are known as Inuinnait, a flourishing healthy fishing place, where our ancestors lived out on the land before the village of Cambridge Bay started being built. Back then there was herds of caribou all over the island, which was our ancestors' main diet along with fish, seal, ptarmigan, geese/ducks and a more peaceful lifestyle.
Everyone wore traditional clothing made from mostly caribou hides, all handmade with individual designs. In the history of Inuinnait, our beloved ancestors, it was known that if a family had neatly-sewn clothing then you were considered rich, the more you wore beautifully handmade clothing in fur you were the luckiest, and rich because it showed who were looking after their families with food and clothing.
Today's southern influenced lifestyle to be rich is money, money, money with houses, vehicles, equipment – material rich. Life has changed for many, but the Inuinnait, my people, still continue to hunt for caribou, which is scarce now on our island. When hunters come home with caribou, it is treasured and shared evenly around our community especially to our dear elders.The meat is not wasted, the hides are used for clothing, mats in camps, alliat-sleds.
Today our youth attend school in the communities, parents have jobs in the communities where they earn money to pay for housing, food, etc. On weekends in different seasons our people still go hunting, sealing, fishing. We as Inuinnait have to have our traditional foods, as we crave it, especially when we do not have it for while. Our Inuk bodies and mind, body and soul gets weak, and especially our dear elders get sick. Even just having a small piece of koak to nourish our bodies and then we become alive and better.
Today, it is important to take your sons hunting and to teach the skills to harvest caribou, muskox, fish, seals, ptarmigans, geese, ducks etc. They are taught not to waste anything that is harvested. The hunter brings home his/her catch and the mothers/grandmothers clean the hides and prepare for drying and getting them ready for sewing, and warmth.
This summer I had a pleasure of meeting Inniffum from Pangnirtung. He is 11 years old and speaks Inuktitut fluently. I was so amazed and proud and excited to hear him speaking his first language with his father, grandparents. When you walk into stores and anywhere in the communities in the eastern part of Nunavut, all you hear is Inuktitut with both young and older. This is very important part of our culture, but many of those who were sent off to residential school lost their traditions of language, it affected many of us, sad but true. Today, those of our generation with the legacy of residential schools, we struggle with that now. Many are shy to learn and speak our ancestors' tongue. The schools, government and colleges are trying to teach the language now. We need more and more lessons offered to our Inuinnait before it is lost. Let us get back our Inuinnak and teach our youth.
To Inniffum and his family, you are so fortunate to have your beautiful language. It brought me tears and proud tears to hear and see this 11-year-old boy carrying on his culture and tradition. I will never forget him, he reminded me of my grandson Felix.
I want to acknowledge and say KOANA to Mary Kilabuk and Joe Enook of Pond Inlet for taking good care of me this summer while I waited for the cruise ship. I was amazed at the most beautiful mountains there and the nice communities in the Baffin area. Grise Fiord I also had the joy of visiting also again with beautiful mountains also. Big hello to Geela Pijamini. It was an honour to be with you all, see you again next summer.
God Be With You Son. Mom will never forget you.