Seven Kivalliq youths were among the 130 high school and university students who joined educators from around the world on the 2018 Students on Ice expedition to western Greenland and Nunavut’s High Arctic from July 23 until Aug. 7.
Representing the Kivalliq on the expedition were Wayne Muckpah, and Tapisa Tattuinee of Arviat, Madison (Bruce) Pudlat, Shantea Bruce and Quintin Nester of Coral Harbour and Teegan Tucktoo and Gail Wallace of Rankin Inlet.
The group flew from Ottawa to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, where they boarded the Ocean Endeavour and set sail to discover the communities, fiords, bays and islands along the country’s west coast before crossing the Davis Strait.
Once back in Canada, the group visited Sirmilik National Park, and explored Pikialasorsuaq (the North Water Polynya), an oceanographic feature that is the largest and the most biologically productive of its kind found north of the Arctic Circle.
The expedition took the group through the eastern entrance of the Northwest Passage and Tallurutiup Imanga (Lancaster Sound), Canada’s largest national marine conservation area before coming to an end in Resolute Bay.
The journey was filled with workshops, panel discussions, shore landings, Zodiac excursions and wildlife sightings. The students learned through the lens of science, art, history, policy and culture, grounded in an understanding and appreciation for the people who call the Arctic home.
The expedition encouraged students to share and connect to their peers, the expedition educators, and the land and waters around them.
Madison, 15, attends Grade 11 at Sakku School in Coral Harbour, and she called the expedition a once-in-a-lifetime experience that she’d highly recommend to her fellow high school students across Nunavut.
She said she initially wanted to be involved in the expedition to learn more about Inuit and Greenlandic culture.
“I learned a lot on the expedition, even throat singing, all though not really that good,” said Madison with a laugh.
“I also learned a lot about all the birds and animals that we saw on the trip, and I really enjoyed that.
“The instructors were really friendly and helpful, especially the three counsellors who were on the trip with us.
“I found the scenery in both Nunavut and Greenland, along with just listening to the land, to be really soothing.”
Madison said she had never been to the High Arctic, so each community on the expedition was a new experience for her.
She said one thing that totally surprised her was realizing how many similarities there were between the two cultures.
“I had a roommate from Greenland and we taught each other about our cultures, so that’s when I started to notice all the similarities.
“I expected we’d have more differences than similarities, but it turned out to be exactly the opposite.”
Madison said she plans to take the full three years of the Nunavut Sivuniksavut (NS) program when she graduates from high school before making her ultimate career choice.
She said it took a bit for the ice to break between the students on the trip, but, once it did, everyone really opened up.
“The first couple of days everyone was shy and only hung out with people they knew, but after the NS workshop everyone started getting to know everyone else.
“Once we got to know the other students it was really easy to teach them about our culture because we had been taught how to answer questions properly during our first two days of the trip.
“It’s so hard to name one thing, but if I had to name my favourite part of the experience I would have to say the workshops, especially the one on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission because I learned so much during that one.
“It really was an amazing experience. I loved every second of it, even the hour or so that I was seasick.”
Tattuinee, 20, who graduated high school in Arviat as part of the Class of 2015, said she felt she’d enjoy the Students on Ice expedition because it offered her the chance to visit communities in the High Arctic, meet people from all-over the world and learn more about the Arctic environment.
She said everyone got along well and that produced a positive environment for a large group of students eager and willing to learn about the Arctic.
“I really enjoyed the workshops on the expedition,” said Tattuinee.
“You got to choose which workshops you wanted to attend, and I was most interested in those dealing with the environment, Greenlandic culture and things in the ocean.
“I really learned a lot while we were on the ship because it was new information to me and it was all about where I’m from.
“I was shocked, really, to learn some of the things I did about Greenlandic culture and some of the things that are going on in the environment today. I really learned a lot each day.”
Tattuinee said she began an environmental technology program this past year, but she plans to attend the new third year (academic and career development) of the NS program this semester.
She said it’s going to be pretty cool to be part of the first group of students to take the new third-year program.
“I highly recommend Students on Ice because it puts you on the sea and creates a comfortable environment to learn about the Arctic, different cultures, the environment and climate change.
“You learn a lot of cools things on that ship in a short period of time.
“For me, personally, being part of Students on Ice showed me what I want to do for a career, and that’s to take social work so I can help Inuit in Nunavut.
“I found my inspiration on that ship!”