How is life in the northern territory

Inuit in Canada"It's about our identity"

A life 50 kilometers south of the Arctic Circle - that means: The vegetation does not exceed a height of a few centimeters. There are no bushes or even trees. It is a strangely empty, strangely far-sighted landscape. This also means that there is daylight around the clock in summer. At Christmas, however, there are only 2 ½ hours. And it means: the average maximum temperatures in summer are 12 degrees, in winter they drop to lows of minus 30 degrees or even minus 50 degrees due to the icy winds that rage through the fjord and the adjoining valley like a wind tunnel.

Dramatic upheavals

Ulipika Angnakak runs the Pangnirtung Visitor Center. At the same time, a lovingly designed museum is hidden in the building. The small exhibition is dedicated to the dramatic upheavals that the European whalers and, in their wake, the settlers caused in the lives of the Inuit. And it is reminiscent of the traditional, nomadic lifestyle of the indigenous people.

This includes a kind of monopoly, as Ulipika Angnakak calls it. However, this game is not about money, instead you have to collect as many animal bones as possible.

"Every bone has a meaning. These two big ones here are grandmother and grandfather. They represent the elders of the family, the wise men who explain the traditional lifestyle to you. Then there is the chair for grandfather so that he can sit ice fishing. Then the rest of the family: father, mother, older sister, younger sister, older brother, younger brother. You want a family that is as large as possible so that it continues. "

Historic building of the Hudson’s Bay Company on Pangnirtung Fjord. (Kai Clement)

The Inuit did not come to places like Pangnirtung willingly. Their lives have been nomadic for millennia. The extended families hunted and fished and followed the animals in the process. Agriculture or animal husbandry were and are impossible in the arctic conditions. The indigenous people were perfectly adapted to the climatic extremes in their sustainable way of life - also on the mountain slopes of the fjord of Pangnirtung.

Rigid corset of European settlements

"This was the caribou hunting ground. Only then did it become a town. There was the first hospital, the Hudson's Bay Company, and the RCMP, the Canadian state police. That was in the 1920s. It's still a pretty big one young place. The first houses for the Inuit were not built until the 1960s. "

The nomadic existence ended with the Europeans, with explorers, whalers, traders and missionaries. They brought a different way of life - and asked the Inuit to follow their example. A culture that had grown over millennia was only forced into the rigid corset of European settlements a few decades ago. At the same time, the Inuit were taught how to lead a barbaric life, one that was even displayed as an exotic alien in the Berlin or Cologne zoo.

"I'm still trying to find my way back to our community"

Stevie Komoartok has been the mayor of Pangnirtung since the beginning of the year. Almost everything in his office seems to be covered in a fine layer of dust. This is due to the traffic on the gravel road directly in front of the window, there are no tarred roads. The entire road network ends with the local border anyway. All places in Nunavut are within easy reach of the rigid corset of European settlements. The Canadian part of the country is almost six times the size of Germany. Only around 36,000 people get lost on the huge area.

Stevie Komoartok, Mayor of Pangnirtung (Kai Clement)

"We have only been here in Pangnirtung for 50 years. Before that, we lived a nomadic life. I was born in the country when we were not yet settled. I went to a boarding school, a so-called" residential school " It helped my upbringing. But emotionally? That's where I moved away from the family elders, the wise. I'm still trying to find my way back to our community. And I need to heal from all the experiences I had in school. I have there Lost a friend, my roommate. He was from Resolute Bay. He committed suicide in our room. "

Children snatched from the supposedly "savages"

Church boarding schools, supported by the Canadian government, have wreaked havoc. The so-called "Residential Schools" have snatched children away from the supposed "savages", that is, their parents, have taken their language and culture away from them and instead wanted to turn them into "good Christian people". With the traditional way of life, they destroyed people's dignity and self-esteem.

Some teachers did not even stop at physical integrity: beatings, mistreatment, abuse. Schools began their re-education in the 1880s. It wasn't until 1996 that the last of them was closed. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his successor, the current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, have apologized on behalf of the Canadian government for the injustice that has been committed. But the trauma remains.

"Our most pressing problem is our suicidal young people. I think they are struggling to adapt to this 'today'. We have only been living in settlements for 50 years. We are trying to adapt to this world today get used to it and some young people find it very difficult. "

Pat Angnakak, Minister of Health of Nunavut with the probably unique additional title: Minister for the Prevention of Suicide (Kai Clement)

Pangnirtung Youth Center

Markus Wilcke and a few student interns are preparing the reopening of the Pangnirtung youth center. Markus Wilcke: the German who answered the call of the north. Fascinated by the majestic landscape and the close community network of Pangnirtung, he has remained - and in view of the crisis of the territory has decided on one thing: tackle, participate, change. For example, on the board of the youth center. That should open in time for the school holidays. Perspective instead of a lack of perspective. It should be a point of contact, a meeting point, a creator of meaning. With sports, computer courses, help with application letters, billiards.

"Here in this youth center we will have quite a few students over the summer months who have a summer job here, and they will organize various youth programs."

Twelve suicide attempts in a month

The youth center also serves as a soup kitchen. At least three times a week, the many needy people in the place should get a real meal. 32-year-old Henry Mike organized the offer.

"I am Henry Mike ..."

Since he was 12, Henry Mike has seen friends and relatives take their own lives again and again. In February alone, twelve young people attempted suicide.

"Just last week I lost a cousin, he committed suicide. It's terribly hard for me. I would not have expected that from him at all. Mental health problems are such a big issue here. This spring alone I have three people who are close to me through Lost suicide. It's horrible. Most of the time I don't even know how to cope with it. Then I just sit there. "

Emergency call for an entire region

The high number of suicides represents an emergency for the whole of Nunavut. It is an emergency and at the same time an emergency call for the whole region.

Pangnirtung has a health center. This is not a hospital with doctors permanently on site, but it is still a large, modern-looking facility with nurses, including those who specialize in mental health problems. However, they did not want to comment.

"That affects everyone at least indirectly. The whole place pauses for a moment. That is not the life a community should lead. In my opinion, everyone then moves to their own corner and mourns alone Giving support with other family members and friends. You can't cope with that alone. We have to get rid of this stigma. People can't take care of themselves all by themselves. "

Gap between two forms of life

There is a gap to be bridged between two forms of life, which although only a few decades separate worlds. From seal hunting to Facebook. From wandering and hunting extended families to high unemployment in the isolated places of Nunavut. From a world that completely and sustainably used the hunted prey for clothing, apartment, household and heating, for building boats and sleds, for hunting weapons and toys. Towards a world in which every packet of sugar and every letter has to be flown in or transported by ship.

In order to cope with "this" today ", as the mayor of Pangnirtung calls it," yesterday "must be won back. At least in the form of their own language, from Inuktitut. For the government of Nunavut, Tocasie Burke is sponsoring Inuktitut.

Tocasie Burke works in Iqaluit. The capital of the territory is about an hour's flight from Pangnirtung. Burke works for the "Authority for Culture and Heritage". She's sitting in one of those corrugated iron houses that stand as if by chance in the vegetation-free landscape. Every year the cultural authority announces a song competition - participation only in Inuktitut.

"It's about our identity"

"We have to promote our language. It's about our identity! I can empathize with all the songs. Quite often it's about being outside in nature: How peaceful it is. No stress, out there. It's so quiet. The air is so clean. You are not driven by the clock. We all long for this life, for hunting and fishing. Even children can catch fish and help feed their families. This pride that grows from it: They tell about it too Songs."

Overall, almost two out of three Inuit still speak their native language, Inuktitut. That is the highest percentage ever for any Native Canadian group. Nunavut protects and promotes the language by law, especially in schools and in government.

Linguistic variety

For those who only speak Inuktitut, life outside the territory is practically impossible. On the other hand, if you give up Inuktitut, says Tocasie Burke, you are giving up linguistic diversity. A form of expression that, much like the traditional Inuit lifestyle, is so perfectly adapted to arctic life.

"A common word, but hardly translatable, is:" Katschanaktuk "

The word has many meanings. It's a feeling or a memory. When you are outside in nature and see very still water - this is the feeling the word describes. Or you smell something familiar that your grandmother used to cook. It can also be such a memory. "

Nunavut Day

July 9, 2018. A day to celebrate. A day to take back pride and culture. It's Nunavut Day. Canada passed the Nunavut Act 25 years ago. This laid the foundation for the territory as an Inuit self-administered area. Six years later - in 1999 - Nunavut became a reality on the map of Canada. Joanna Awa has sung the Territory's birthday song. She will host the stage program on this unique Nunavut holiday.

One sings on Inuktitut - a band performs on Nunavut Day. (Kai Clement)

"Nunavut Day is something very special. If you look at the history of our people, we were always self-determined, had our own rules. We had a society with very strict values ​​that we followed. That was important for our survival But then our lives were more and more disturbed. By Europeans, explorers, missionaries. Life has changed so much that we have almost lost ourselves. But then we have asked to be ourselves again. Especially those of our political leaders who have demanded our country back. With that we have also regained a bit of our pride. That means Nunavut Day to me. "

"The most important thing is to know your roots"

A small stage has been set up in the heart of the capital Iqaluit. Inuktitut bands perform, children's bicycles and fishing bags can be won in a raffle. The festival has the charm of a village fair. And yet it stands for so much more.

They celebrate Mary Lee from the small stage. The young woman comes from Coral Harbor, a small town around 700 kilometers west of Iqaluit, on Southampton Island on the Northwest Passage through the Arctic.

Mary Lee won the main prize for a traditional and self-made robe. It's an Amauti - the women's parka with a baby rucksack attached to its back, close to the mother's warming body.

"The most important thing is to know your roots. To be proud of it instead of being ashamed of it. That makes you a strong person. For me, Nunavut Day means to be recognized as a human being. For example, we used to have no right to vote . Now we are humans in Canada, with Canadian rights. That gave us the freedom to live the way we want. We got our language back, our culture. Everything that was forbidden to my ancestors. "

"Set your own priorities, develop your own policy"

Carolyn Bennett has taken the stage at the Nunavut Festival. She came from Ottawa as a representative of the Canadian federal government. The minister’s portfolio includes relations with Native Canadians and the northern parts of the country.

Federal Minister Carolyn Bennett in Nunavut's capital Iqaluit (Kai Clement)

"The founding of Nunavut not only changed the map of Canada. We learned what a struggle it was to have the voice of the Nunavut people heard. Now they could set their own priorities, develop their own policies. what we're celebrating today. "

Traumas passed down through generations

Independence. Self-determination. Self-government. The sovereignty over one's own life instead of being determined by others. These are the values ​​that the Canadian federal government represents by founding Nunavut. But the legacy of colonial interventions remains.

"We are still paying for the wrong policies of the government of that time. It is mainly about the boarding schools, the" residential schools ". There is a trauma that is passed on from generation to generation, for example through child abuse. People have lost their self-confidence. They are ashamed yourself. It was all so misguided and harmed. That legacy continues to kill today. "