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Gjoa Haven elders visit HMS Terror

A group of elders had the chance to visit the wreck of Sir John Franklin’s HMS Terror last month as an extension of Parks Canada’s Guardian program.

The visit followed a previous trip by Elders, youth and Guardians to Terror Bay in 2018, when they accompanied Parks Canada partner, Know History, as part of the Franklin Inuit Oral History Project – collecting Inuit Traditional Knowledge on the Franklin Expedition and the Netsilik region.

Elders from Gjoa Haven speak with Parks Canada’s Manager of underwater archeology, Marc-André Bernier, aboard the RV David Thompson, prior to operations at the wreck of HMS Terror on Aug. 9. From left, elders Joanasie Ukuqtunnuaq, Saul Qirniq, Tommy Tavalok (front), Ben Putuguq (corner), Jimmy Qirqqut, Parks Canada’s Manager of underwater archeology, Marc-André Bernier and Underwater Archaeology Team Assistant, Jonathan Puqiqnak (far right).

According to Tamara Tarasoff, project manager for the wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror National Historic Site, the trip was such a positive experience for both the elders and Guardians to share their knowledge that the Gjoa Haven Hunters and Trappers Association Board, the Guardians, and Elders recommended a similar event occur again this year.

“Acting on feedback from Guardians and Elders collected after the 2018 Guardian season, it was requested that future Guardian training incorporate elders into the program,” stated Tarasoff in an email to News/North. “And in keeping with the principles of Inuit traditional knowledge, it was decided that an elder-Guardian-youth field trip would take place at the conclusion of the 2019 Guardian training program.”

This year’s field trip ended up coinciding with the early phase of the underwater archeology team’s research operations at the wreck site of HMS Terror. As a result it was decided the field trip would travel to Terror Bay in order to have the opportunity to visit the underwater archeology team aboard the Parks Canada research vessel, David Thompson.

The elders, Guardians and youth travelled to the Terror Bay Guardian Camp on Aug. 7, where they camped and engaged in knowledge-sharing for three days and two nights. Ten Guardians, seven Elders, and one youth participated.

On the final day, the group boarded the RV David Thompson in Terror Bay.

“The Elders and Guardians were invited on board to visit the ship and also to share their knowledge of the Franklin Expedition and the areas surrounding Terror Bay,” said Tarasoff.

Over the course of the morning, the visitors were given a tour of the vessel and met the ship’s crew and Parks Canada’s Underwater Archeology Team members – including underwater archeology assistant Jonathan Puqiqnak from Gjoa Haven. They also had the opportunity to try some of the equipment used by team members to explore the wreck.

“They appreciated seeing recent images of the two shipwrecks as well as maps showing the location of the national historic site with traditional place names of nearby locations,” said Tarasoff.

Given the success of recent visits, Tarasoff said it is likely there will be more in the future.