Friday, July 20, 2007

DAY 11, Thursday July 19, 2007

Today is Barb’s birthday! The team sang “Happy Birthday” to her at breakfast. At noon we headed out for the day’s work. Half of the team headed out to try to find Mosha’s dog (our carver friend) to neuter him, and the other half headed out to vaccinate a dog team owned by a gentleman, Samueli. This was the first team we were going to have to deal with without the owner actually present and able to hold the dogs for us to vaccinate. After searching for the dog team’s location, we finally spotted them. As we approached, we noticed one dog was lying on the ground and not moving. Further investigation told us the dog had died. We also found a skeleton of a dog still tied up to a chain and tangled in a fishnet. A couple of other dogs were tangled with their chains and one could not reach the small pond that was their drinking water source. The pond water was fairly dirty and slimy looking. Barb waded into the nearby water in the ocean and retrieved a small ice floe which we then broke up and laid in front of the dogs. They lick it and do get some water that way. Many of the dog team owners do this. The dogs were generally friendly but we were very cautious with them. We spent some time just quietly sitting nearby and trying to win them over. Then the catch pole was used to immobilize them enough to give them their two vaccines, as well as in injection of dewormer.

As we headed back to town, we made sure we spoke with a couple of people along the way, as well as stopped in at the Hamlet office to speak with someone there about the fact that we found a dog dead with the team, before we started to vaccinate. We realized it was important to cover our bases so we wouldn’t be accused of killing one of the dogs with our vaccines.

A few of the team baked a cake in the shape of an Inukshuk for Barb today, and a birthday card was passed around for the team to sign. Marie, our interpreter, gave Barb a gift also, something Barb will treasure always.

We worked the rest of the day at the clinic on several dogs. We even had an hour or so to sit and listen to some of Marie’s stories of how life used to be in the North. She was answering many of our questions. She said that things have changed in Igloolik over the years, in her opinion, not for the better. When the telephone arrived in the 1970’s, people stopped visiting each other in their homes. Television arrived in the 1980’s and it made it even worse. She said the teenagers are too involved in drugs and they get mean and angry. We asked her about her wedding to Luki (a very famous dog sled team owner and renowned carver). She was nineteen years of age and in love with a “white” boy whom she worked with. Her brother didn’t like this so he and the mother arranged for Marie to marry Luki, an Inuit man from another community. She argued with her mother and said she would not marry Luki. The family insisted and the next morning they dragged her to the church and placed her in front of the Priest and by Luki’s waiting side. When the priest asked her if she took Luki to be her husband, she said, “No”. The Priest kept telling her she had to say “yes”, but she refused to say “yes” until her brother pinched her arm so hard that she said “yes…. but no”. As they were walking out of the church, she took off the wedding ring from her finger, spit on it, and threw it at Luki. She and Luki have now been married for 46 years, have eleven children and six adopted children (grandchildren).

After several other fascinating stories about residential school life, Marie left to go home and the team closed up the clinic for the day and walked up the hill to the Research Station for a tour. Markus Dyck (the polar bear biologist/technician) met us and spent the next one and a half hours speaking to us about his role and his work with the polar bear research. He explained some of the frustrations he has had with some of the financial and personnel constraints for the amount of work they need to do. This is the last year of a three year population study to determine the “harvest” (how many bears each community is allowed to kill). We had a tour of the lab, learned at how they age a bear by its teeth, saw a p.bear fetus in a jar, skulls, hair, a dart gun, tracking collars, etc.

After dinner several team members (Aliesha, Allison, Barb, Isabelle and Chris) put on their toques and headed down to the water’s edge for a polar bear swim. The water is still covered in ice floes so it is very very cold. After some initial photographs were taken by the rest of the team (the wimpy ones), the five ran into the water, some up to their necks. The muddy bottom tried to swallow up some of their sandals. Many photos were taken, and the local people were watching from their homes, surely shaking their heads thinking how crazy those white women are. Hot showers and hot chocolate warmed everyone up as we gathered at Chris, Annette and Isabelle’s place of residence for a short visit before bed.

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