Frobisher Bay, Iqaluit, Nunavut

Last week, I had the privilege of visiting a pretty remote part of the world: Iqaluit, Nunavut, in the great Canadian North. I was there on business, consulting on an IT project.

I had no idea what to expect, really, but nothing could have prepared me for the breathtaking views from the plane as we descended. Frozen tundra as far as the eye can see, snowmobiles, tiny, whizzing across frozen Frobisher Bay. If I had seen a polar bear, I would not have been surprised. The picture above was taken just from the edge of town. Amazing.

Although I only had a short couple of days, I managed to visit the local library. With all my (admitted) prejudices of what life there would be like, I was pleasantly surprised at how well stocked and modern the library was, with computer stations and lovely, brightly-lit children’s section:

Kids' handwriting in Inuktitut

Children's section, Iqaluit Library

I spent as much time as I could trying to learn about the culture and way of life, although this was not easy. The Inuits have been exposed to so many outside influences, and although it is obvious they are trying hard to preserve their values and culture, Iqaluit is a ‘capital city’, with most of the modern conveniences you would find anywhere.

I picked up a couple of picture books to share with my kids, and have spent the last few evenings learning a bit about the Inuk way of life. It has brought back wonderful memories of one of my all time favorite books as a child: Julie of the Wolves.

Polar Bear Son: An Inuit Tale

This beautifully illustrated book tells the tale of an old Inuit woman who adopts an orphan polar bear cub.

As the polar bear grows, he begins to hunt and bring food home, and his adoptive mother immediately shares her bounty with the villagers in typical Inuit fashion.

When the villagers grow jealous of his hunting prowess, they threaten to kill the bear and the woman is forced to send him away. Full of simple but beautiful illustrations, my daughter immediately requested a re-read, in spite some fairly strong emotions. Don’t worry, the story ends well, and it is one I highly recommend. Snuggle up under a warm blanket with your loved ones, imagine life in the frozen Arctic, and revel in the warmth of love between woman and cub.

A Sled Dog for Moshi

Two friends, Moshi and Jessica, get caught in a whiteout in Iqaluit. Moshi remembers survival lessons taught by her father, and the girls manage to stay safe until they are found by Nuna, one her father’s sled dogs, who brings them to a shelter where they await rescue. The experience leaves Moshi, who had been jealous of Jessica’s pet puppy that performed tricks, with a deeper appreciation of the lessons of her parents, as well as the smart sled dogs that are such an important part of her culture. She no longer wishes for a ‘pet’ dog, but wants to raise a sled dog of her own.

My daughter was impressed by Moshi, how she seemed to know just what to do to survive and stay warm. Of course we loved the smart and gentle Nuna. My daughter already put this on our pile to re-read tomorrow evening.

It’s been so lovely reading these stories, learning a bit about this fascinating way of life, about our neighbors to the North. Fellow Canadians, yet with a way of life still so different from our own.