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Qik youth up for a challenge

A group of courageous youth forged a path in the deep snow on the land on the Easter long weekend, skiing a 30-km loop from home and back by way of Bubble Lake.

photos courtesy of Celine Jaccard
Marja Audlakiak, left, Jane Aliqatuqtuq and Carmen Nutaralak – like the rest of the nine-person team which skied a 30-km loop from Qikiqtarjuaq and back – experience a moment of exhaustion.

The Pisuktiit Project, a year-long program delivered under the umbrella of Nunavut Youth LEAP (Land-based Educational Adventure Programs), is for Qikiqtarjuaq youth.

"The idea is to create programming for outdoor education and activities for the community. We're targeting youth but we've had all age groups participating," said Celine Jaccard, who along with Adam Aliqatuqtuq and Gabriel Ferland, led the expedition.

"We've had some hiking and berry-picking activities, some bonfires, some cultural activities, like a qulliq-lighting workshop."

But once the snow covers the ground, all attention turns to skiing.

"Which is really getting a lot of interest in the community," she said, noting they've operated ski programming in the community for years, "but we're trying to increase that program and create a long-term vision of how to increase the challenge. So the highlight was the expedition on the Easter long-weekend."

The young skiers spend the last morning of their expedition fishing at Bubble Lake, a traditional place kept unfrozen in some parts due to mysterious bubbling.

Aiden Nutaralak, Carmen Nutaralak, Jane Aliqatuqtuq, Marja Audlakiak, Jerry Nookiguak and John Nookiguak, 12-to-17 year olds, stepped up for the challenge.

"It was amazing. It was definitely a challenge," said Jaccard.

The temperature remained in the mid-minus-20s, and the team slept in unheated double dome tent – one side for cooking and one for sleeping – after very long days on their skis.

"They had to really tap into their resilience to be able to do that," said Jaccard.

"Throughout the expedition there was really a mix of intense moments of joy and intense moments of, 'Oh my God, this is hard, how am I going to do it. I can't go ahead anymore.' Then working together as a team and building resiliency, because we had to keep going."

She says the youth were proud when they arrived home, as she and the parents were. One parent met them by snowmobile.

"There was a lot of pride in the parents' eyes when they saw their kids coming back."

She explained that this was a first expedition, so skiers carried day packs and had a snowmobile support team that would bring in the camping equipment at night.

The next challenge is to do a summer hike from Qikiqtarjuaq to Pangnirtung through Auyuittuq National Park.

"For that one, we'll be carrying everything in our backpacks. That will be a bigger challenge. It's longer, it's more difficult and they will be carrying everything," said Jaccard.

As the Pisuktiit Project continues, Jaccard says, the more the instructors understand what sorts of challenges the youth need, and what sort of support needs to be brought to the activities.

"The nature of being outside and skiing, hiking and adventuring creates intense discussions," she said, adding the adventures help build coping skills, resiliency, as well as providing moments of joy.

"It creates confidence in youth."