Week 2

August 20, 2015

Community day in Gjoa Haven

CCG Seaman Skye McEwan greets members of the community aboard CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier

We anchored early this morning just offshore of Gjoa Haven. Today, our crew and partners have put a day aside specifically to spend with the community.  With warm temperatures, mild winds and calm waters, our day looked good from the start.

The day's events were separated into three key activities: a morning tea with Gjoa Haven's elders; an afternoon filled with ship tours the Laurier; and, an evening community feast and celebration.  Our partners Parks Canada, the Government of Nunavut, the Royal Canadian Navy and Arctic Research Foundation all participated with us in joining the community for the activities.

The morning began by recognizing the important role that elders play in northern communities. For several days in advance, heather had been gathered to burn in small campfires used by the elders to boil water for tea. Served with ship-baked dainties, as well as locally made bannock and boiled duck, a number of community elders gathered with our program experts to meet and discuss a variety of common interests.  As Inuktitut is the only language spoken by many elders, translators facilitated discussions when necessary. We were all deeply honoured to watch and learn from the elders. The meetingreminded us to never lose sight of the key roles of Inuit and culture as we undertake our own Arctic operations this season.

Following lunch, ship tours of the CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier began.  Over 80 community members were shuttled by zodiac to the ship where they spent time with CHS and CCG  staff to explore the ship's bridge, the archaeology labs, the hydrographic labs, the helicopter hanger, the galley, the engine room and the well deck, before heading back into the community.

CCG welcome members of the community in Gjoa Haven aboard CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Captain Stuart Aldridge speaks with a local resident on the bridge of CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier

The evening involved a Community Feast co-hosted by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the hamlet of Gjoa Haven. With over 300 people in attendance, the Mayor Joannie Sallerina, took on the role of Master of Ceremonies, translating fluently between English and Inuktitut throughout the evening. The feast opened with a traditional lighting of the qulliq (a traditional Inuit lamp used for light, cooking and heat) and a prayer, and was followed by a presentation of both country foods and southern foods, including Arctic char, caribou, salads and cakes prepared by the community, along with fresh breads and desserts prepared onboard the Laurier. The feast was followed by talented drum dancers and throat singers, and an impressive demonstration of Arctic Games celebrating sports and youth. Leading off several brief presentations to the community, CCG Captain Aldridge thanked the elders and the community, and highlighted the significant honour and privilege of enjoying Gjoa Haven's warm hospitality and friendship. Brief speeches and presentations followed by the Canadian Hydrographic Service, the Government of Nunavut, the Arctic Research Foundation, the Royal Canadian Navy and Parks Canada.   The evening ended with local musicians and highly engaging square dancing.

This day was an extraordinary way to kick off this year's expedition and a great step forward in strengthening relationships between the community and expedition partners.  It was a day that none of us will ever forget.

Young Zackery Puqiqnak sits at the controls of CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier during the ship tours (photo credit, The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces)

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