This summer the Sirmilik Bird Festival was held online and by radio amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Since 2018, Parks Canada has hosted presentations and public videos showcasing the diverse birds of Sirmilik National Park and their significance to the Inuit of Arctic Bay and Pond Inlet.
This virtual approach to the festival has lead to reaching an even wider audience across Canada and globally, said Tess Espey, the acting site manager at Sirmilik National Park. “Given the park’s remote location, we were delighted to spark enthusiasm for birds and Inuit culture in both local communities and far beyond,” she said.
The 22,252 sq. km park is situated in the Eastern Arctic of Nunavut. Most visitors travel through Pond Inlet or Arctic Bay to reach it.
The festival in the past was also celebrated with community barbecues, bird-house building workshops and guided bird watching hikes with Elders, explained Espey.
In light of Covid-related concerns this year, Parks Canada celebrated with several events through Facebook, Twitter and via local radio, from July 3 to 10.
Participants were invited to test their knowledge of local bird species through a bird brain trivia challenge. They were virtually presented with various bird photos and riddles.
In another event, through an online scavenger hunt, participants were able to explore and learn about bird research carried out at Sirmilik National Park by scientists.
A platform named eBird was also created to help community members and visitors report their bird sightings.
In a bird art challenge, individuals were encouraged to create artwork that was inspired specifically by the birds in Sirmilik National Park.
“We received many vibrant sketches, drawings, and paintings showing birds and lush Arctic landscapes,” said Espey, adding it was a thrill to see the creativity.
In another challenge participants were asked to make a bird costume using materials from home. The idea was to create a costume representing a bird from Sirmilik National Park.
Pond Inlet resident, Carey Elverum helped his six-year-old daughter, Naya Elverum create a snow goose. “She likes geese and had been collecting feathers from around town,” said Naya’s dad.
After gathering the bird feathers from local hunters, they used cardboard, paper and garbage bags to make the wings. “We also had to go through her closet to find clothes that matched the colours of the snow goose,” he said. The project took about four hours to complete.
Through local radio in Pond Inlet, Elder Elijah Panipakoocho told bird stories and shared Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (traditional knowledge) about different bird species that visit the park.
In Arctic Bay, a radio show for the bird festival was also planned with Elder Tommy Tattatuapik on July 9. However, it was postponed until July 29.
According to Espey, the Bird Festival was a success. “We found that the virtual format provided many new, fun ways to share stories, learn new things, and inspire creativity around the central theme of birds in Sirmilik National Park,” she said.
She hopes to have more of these kinds of events in the future festivals.