Torngat Mountains National Park is home to the Labrador Inuit
Veteran journalist Shelagh Rogers and five Canadian authors spent a week in Torngat Mountains National Park in August as part of a new documentary introducing writers to remote national parks.
Visit website: http://www.northwordscanada.ca and http://www.torngatbasecamp.com/home/
Rogers said one of the highlights of the expedition was travelling the land with Inuit elder Sophie Keelan who was born on Rose Island – a sacred place to Labrador Inuit.
The elder hadn’t been back to the island since her childhood.
“She took off on her legs and she seemed to know the land through her legs. She remembered where the food caches were, she remembered where there were burial sites. It was a privilege to be with her and to see the land through her eyes.”
The group also visited Hebron – the former site of the Moravian mission which started in the 1830 and disbanded in the 1950s.
“In 1959 (former premier) Joey Smallwood decided that the community would be shut down and the people resettled.”
Resettled is an unsettling word, Rogers said.
“There’s a plaque there of (former premier) Danny Williams’ apology to the Labrador Inuit for the disbursement of all these families, some of whom were broken up and sent to different places.”
There is also a plaque in which Andrea Webb, one of the survivors of the Hebron resettlement accepted Williams’ apology.
“The very last line says ‘We forgive you.’ We were all very moved by that,” Rogers said.
Another highlight of the trip, Rogers said, was swimming off an iceberg – something she did with two of the male writers in the group.
It’s an opportunity she couldn’t refuse, she said.
“Something about swimming in cold water makes you feel incredibly alive. That was just a dream of a day.”
The writers also caught and ate char under the guidance of a Labrador Inuit woman named Mary Sam.
“She helped cook the char. We had it in a soup, we had it roasted on a flat rock over a fire and we had it baked.”The writers tried numerous other traditional foods including seal and caribou.
The climax of the expedition was a harvesting expedition where, after a guide killed a caribou, the writers helped skin the animal.
Rogers describes the experience as amazing and intense. They ate the caribou’s heart right after it was taken from the animal.
“I’ve never done anything like that in my life. But I did it because I think it was an honour to be asked.”
Rogers said the heart tasted like lamb. She felt energized after she ate it, she said.
The majority of the writers ate the caribou and took it back to base camp to share with others.
While at base camp, the writers also spent time with Derrick Pottle, a master carver from Rigolet.
Pottle teaches Inuit culture to Inuit youth to keep the culture alive. He helped the youth create a carving called “Hanging by Ivuluk... Hanging by a String.”
What's hanging is Inuit culture, Rogers said, going on to describe the piece of artwork.
“There’s a carved face, hanging by sinew from an antler--but we remember the sinew is strong. And beneath the face, there's a drum--and the drum is the heartbeat of drum dancing and Inuit culture and the heartbeat is loud.”
The Inuit youth gave the writers a lesson on throat singing and drum dancing.
The writers wrote about their experiences and, during the last night at the park, read their stories to the people at base camp.
Rogers credits not only the Labrador Inuit and Parks Canada but also filmmaker Geoff Morrison for the expedition’s success.
The hope now is that the documentary will be picked up by a broadcaster.
“I really hope the CBC will pick it up because I think every Canadian should see this,” Rogers said.
The Torngats Mountains have been #1 on my places to see in the world for a few years now, and I've traveled a great deal. Seeing and being there was an experience of a lifetime. Congratulations - stay with your concept of minimal impact to nature and environment, preserve the pristine landscape! ~"Alain"
It was a spine-tingling, truly awesome feeling to stand on the beaches and tundra of the sites we visited. I have always wanted to visit the place where the Inuit say the spirits reside. After being in the Torngats, I believe them. In the most isolated place, I did not feel alone. The park really felt sacred in some indescribable way. ~"John"
Torngat Mountains National Park has to be one of the most spectacular parks I have ever visited in Canada or in the world. Its unique geology was also a major highlight - it felt like being on another planet. I know that I will go back one day. ~"Gary"
There was something sacred about being in such a magnificent setting. I think anyone who visits this area will be changed forever. I would love to see the Torngat Mountains enjoyed and appreciated by many people, but I pray that strict guidelines will be kept to protect this perfect place for the Inuit people and the wildlife. Thank you. ~"Bert"
This trip changed me, but I have no words for it. When I need to feel peaceful - and these days, who doesn't - I will imagine the mist rolling down over the tops of the mountains in Nachvak Fiord. Words fail to adequately describe the clean-ness of the air, the aroma of the Labrador Tea under foot, the softness of the land, the darkness of the water, and the magic of it all. I feel incredibly blessed and fortunate to have spent some time in this very, very special place. I thank the Inuit from the bottom of my heart for their gift to us all. ~"Erie"
The authenticity and direction of the park and staff were amazing. I feel that anyone who visits the park and has a chance to interact with people from Nunatsiavut would have a hard time not feeling that they had accomplished something special... ~"Denise"
Torngat mountains: Let the spirit move you
Bob lifts his rifle and scans the shore through the scope. Seeing nothing, he resumes snacking on the pitsik, dried arctic char, strung like laundry across the rear wheelhouse. From a speaker overhead, tinny music piped in from the forward cabin bears a cowboy twanging about life's critical moments: "It's where I drank my first beer. It's where I found Jesus. Where I wrecked my first car." As surreal as the surroundings still feel, the country tune isn't that out of place on this working crab boat - the 16-metre longliner, What's Happening - plying the cold waters of the North Atlantic. The song could be the anthem for our trip. A trip of unforgettable firsts.
Labrador, it's like going to the moon. The last frontier.
Inuit Are Not First Nations