Senior students and staff members at Tuugaalik High School will have a unique experience when they gather to send off the team re-enacting the historic 650-kilometre trek across Boothia Peninsula to Rae Strait made by Orcadian explorer John Rae in 1854.
The Arctic Return Expedition will pay tribute to and raise awareness of Rae, one of the greatest explorers and surveyors to have ever lived.
The team is comprised of David Reid, Garry Tutte (filmmaker), Richard Smith and Frank Wolfe.
Rae’s success was due in large part to his willingness to learn from the Indigenous people and culture of the regions he explored.
And it was during his 1854 expedition that he and his companions discovered the missing link to the first navigable Northwest Passage and the most salient facts pertaining to the fate of the failed Franklin expedition.
Tuugaalik High School principal Aubrey Bolt said an awful lot of the success achieved on Rae’s trip in 1854 was because of the Inuit guides he had, who taught him how to build an iglu and
hunt food on the land.
He said those are exactly the same kind of skills Tuugaalik students are learning in the school’s land program.
“Rae eventually found out what had happened to the Franklin Expedition based on the oral history of the Inuit,” said Bolt.
“And, of course, a lot of the history and stories from olden times are still passed down from the elders to teenagers through that same oral history.
“We here at the school certainly see the value in that and, of course, Inuit certainly see the value in the stories that are passed down from generation to generation.
“So, those two counts – the importance of land and survival skills and the value of Inuit oral history– are both important themes that we like our students to learn about and discover through what we do in school.”
Bolt said the majority of senior high students in grades 10 to 12 have been learning about Rae’s journey in their social studies class and how local guides were involved in his trip.
He said Rae built a stone house near the community; the remnants of which can still be found today about 20 km from Naujaat at North Pole River.
“Rae couldn’t keep the stone house warm, so local Inuit taught him how to build an iglu and, for the rest of the two winters he was here, he lived in an iglu rather than the stone house,” said Bolt.
“The four expedition members are coming to talk to our students on March 27 and then they’ll walk to the stone house where we’re going to meet them on the 29th.
“A group of our students and senior high staff are going to give them, sort of, a send-off from the same stone house that Rae left from.”
Bolt said the expedition’s visit is a big day for the school because it focuses on the history that happened in Naujaat almost 170 years ago.
He said the school’s shop/culture teacher, Laimmiki Malliki, will also be playing a role in
the expedition’s visit.
“Laimmiki will lead our group out to meet the expedition at the stone house and the team members are going to talk to him about some of the oral traditions and histories of the area,” said Bolt.
“Laimmiki has walked the route many times and the team members have all ready been in conversations with us to find out how long it is, how long it will take and things of that nature.
“Laimmiki is our resident expert and they’re getting information from the best when they’re talking with him.”