The magnificence of the landscape, the sun on the horizon and the rhythmic pounding of his dog team’s paws on the snowy ground have proven to be big boosts to Devon Manik’s mindset.
“Before I started all this, I was not in a good place, I was depressed,” he said. “It’s the reason I started doing photography and dog-sledding… When I’m out there, I feel free. It’s just so beautiful every time I go out.”
Although late fall and winter literally bring darkness to Resolute until early February, Manik is excited about being on the verge of officially getting his dog team outfitting business up and running. He plans to cater to visitors to Resolute who want to get out and see the surrounding landmarks.
“I want to do what I love,” he said.
Tudjaat Outfitting is named in homage to what his grandparents’ family used to call the area when they lived on Somerset Island.
Manik, 18, learned how to train his adult dogs by watching online videos from Greenland. Teaching them to stop was the most difficult part.
“It took about a year to finally get them to do what I wanted,” he said, laughing.
The dogs are content to run for about four hours per day, he said. They’re also invaluable in getting him to his cabin, approximately 30 km northwest of Resolute, and to hunting locations, including seal breathing holes. He picked up his hunting skills from his grandfather, grandmother and Tabitha Mullin, he said.
Manik, who graduated from high school this year, has also harvested muskoxen, caribou, polar bears, narwhal and a wolf. Over the summer, he slayed two beluga whales in the nearby bay while in his kayak.
“You don’t really need to throw hard if your harpoon is sharp,” he said of his ability to hunt the whales even though he was seated in the notoriously wobbly vessel. “You just got to get the harpoon head in there and once it’s in there the rope is attached to a buoy and you’re good.”
With so much of his time spent on the land, there are periodic mishaps and close encounters with wildlife, he admitted. He’s had polar bears approach him and his dogs while they were at seal holes waiting for their prey. On one of those occasions he fired a round into the air and scared off the predator, which had reared up on its hind legs. The other confrontation with a mother and cub ended when he hurriedly jumped aboard his kick sled and started mushing his team.
“The bears took off. They were afraid of the dogs,” he recalled.
In June, he travelled past his cabin along the river on the hunt for a muskox when the snowmobile he and his cousin were riding demonstrated that it was less reliable than his sled dogs. The engine blew and they had to hike four hours back to his cabin. The next day it was another eight hours of walking to get back to Resolute.
Manik recently earned a President’s award from land claims organization Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated. He also received praise from Quttiktuq MLA David Akeeagok in the legislative assembly on Oct. 25, and it wasn’t a first.
“I have mentioned Devon Manik in this House a number of times because I’m very proud of him,” said Akeeagok. “He completely embraces Inuit culture and I thank him and thank the President Alookie Kotierk and Nunavut Tunngavik for recognizing this student.”