Young hunters in Arviat received a video call from the federal minister of Northern Affairs Canada last week.
Minister Daniel Vandal was calling to check in with participants of the Aqqiumavvik Arviat Wellness Society’s program via video conference to see how they have been coping through the Covid-19 lockdown.
“Today, I was able to speak virtually with representatives from both the Harvesters Support Grant program and Young Hunters Program to get an update on how these community-developed programs have helped them and their families during the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Vandal.
“Programs such as (these) raise awareness about climate change, educate youth about traditions and culture, build capacity in the community, and promote positive, healthy change.”
Vandal was originally scheduled to visit the community earlier this year. However, due to bad weather his plane got stranded in Rankin Inlet.
“It was a good call but it certainly doesn’t replace a face-to-face meeting or an on-the-ground meeting,” he told Kivalliq News.
A $1.23 million cash injection from the federal government, which was announced in February, has been helping the young hunters program in Arviat weather the storm of Covid-19. Following the call, Vandal said some of the young hunters have been treating the lockdown as an opportunity rather than a setback.
“When we talked about Covid, some of the kids said it gave them more of an opportunity to spend time on the land,” he said.
The program was started by Kukik Baker in 2012 as a way to connect young Arviatmiut between the ages of eight and 18 with the rich culture and tradition of surviving on the land.
The new federal funding is being used in part to expand and integrate new facets into the traditional hunting skills that are normally taught.
Chief among them is the Ujjiqsuiniq Project, which hires and trains youth as guardians to collect data to better monitor and understand the impacts of climate change on wildlife populations.
“The Young Hunters Program not only looks at climate change and how we Inuit can adapt to those changes,” said Baker, who is the executive director of the society. “The YHP is also grounded in Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (Inuit Traditional Knowledge) reinforcing the guiding principles of Avatimit Kamatsiarniq (environmental stewardship), Piliriqatigiingniq (working together for the common good), Qanuqtuurunnarniq (being resourceful to solve problems), but also in Pijitsirarniq: the concept of serving others. This is fostered by the sharing of country foods caught through the program with the whole community to help fight food insecurity.”
At the end of the call, Vandal made a promise to visit the hunters in person as soon as it is safe to do so.
“I made a commitment to come up and visit them,” he said.