The land

All that is precious to us

Our rivers are precious because we drink their water many times each day. They nourish us with the fish we catch, which has been going on since time immemorial. In the old days, the rivers served as our highways, which we traveled by qajaq; today we travel them in canoes.

We don’t want the dams that the Whites want to build, because they affect our way of life, our land, and our future. This land will belong to our descendents; they will control it and negotiate their own agreements with the government. This land has been ours for a very long time. We do not want to bequeath anger to our descendents, we want to work together and stay at peace. We want the country of Canada to be at peace.

We live in the North where there are no trees; for countless years, we have nourished ourselves with wildlife. Where we live, winter is longer than other places, and summer is shorter. It’s not surprising that there are few plants and no trees. We understand the rhythm of life in our territory. In winter, the mercury sometimes drops very low; winter is indifferent to the suffering it causes us. The coldest months are January, February and March. In the old days, we lived the whole winter in igloos, and in summer we lived in tents made of caribou skins and sealskins. It is only since the Qallunaat installed themselves in the region, in the 1960s, that we have live in houses made of wood and paid rent to the government. We know all the characteristics of snow, because in winter it has provided our only shelter. We still use igloos when we go out on the land to hunt more than one day’s distance. We are appreciative of our environment because we are able to drink the clear water that the snow supplies. The snow melts in summer under the sun’s rays. In the old days, the panaks [1] were made from caribou antlers or walrus tusks, the traditional materials we used before we had metal. To make the panak cut more smoothly, we licked it.

In winter, the dogs carried us to distant parts of our hunting territory. They also supplied us with skins to make clothing. In summer, they transported our supplies. In winter, the dogs could scent animals from a great distance, and find the seals’ breathing holes in the ice. In the worst weather, our dogs led us safely back to our camps.

by Taamusi Qumaq (1992)

[1] A snow knife for building igloos.