The 61st annual Muskrat Jamboree rang in the return of spring with the first reindeer viewing from the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk highway, the return of dog sled racing and fifth-time jamboree queen and king Loretta and Teddy Rogers.
Loretta Rogers said they raised about $30,800 for the jamboree. She said they have been running for queen and king since 2012, and in that time, they’ve won the titles five times.
“We don’t do it to win, we do it so we can have our jamboree,” said Rogers. “If there weren’t crazy people like me and my husband out there fundraising every year, there wouldn’t be a Muskrat Jamboree.”
Rogers said the jamboree is important to her family and the community.
“It’s been here for years. It’s been here even before Inuvik started, so it brings everybody together,” said Rogers. “It’s important to our family, it’s important to our community. Long ago, I believe how it started, was to get everybody from the communities together, and it still does that now.”
Jamboree committee chair Greta Sittichinli agreed that the jamboree is a celebration of spring that brings people together while also benefitting local businesses and encouraging tourism.
“It’s really nice because it renews friendships, and we celebrate our culture, and you see a showcase of our traditions like drum dancing, jigging, and then the reciprocity of people coming out and seeing each other,” said Sittichinli. “It used to be just a small event, and now we’re in a four-day event. We just came out of darkness, and we have sun, and we see all of the people out enjoying the weather and each other’s company, and we’re in our 61st year, and that shows the commitment of volunteers.”
This year’s jamboree saw the return of dog racing after two years without it. Sittichinli said the committee decided to hold one open class race this year, which brought out two competitors. “Someone from Tuk came up to Bernice who was running the race and said they’re going to bring two teams next year,” said Sittichinli. “So they’re already planning ahead, which is really good.”
The 2018 jamboree also saw some changes, such as the reindeer crossing being moved from the ice road to the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk highway.
“People still got to go down and saw the reindeer from the road even though they didn’t cross the road,” said Sittichinli.
She added that the jamboree is also important to the community because it is a registered society that gives back to the community when someone is in need, such as during bereavement periods.
“If someone is in need, we donate throughout the year,” said Sittichinli. “We will support them, we give back to the community.”
Sittichinli said her favourite jamboree events are the opening ceremonies and the talent show, but noted that the whole jamboree is an exciting time for the community.
“This is one of the events that celebrates who we are as a people,” said Sittichinli. “This is how we do things!”