A guest post by Alexia Galloway-Alainga.
My name is Alexia Galloway-Alainga. I was born and raised in Iqaluit, Nunavut. I am Inuk, meaning that I am part of the three different Indigenous groups in Canada. I am a third-year University student at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. I am majoring in Social Work and minoring in Psychology. I enjoy being on the land and outdoors, keeping active, throat singing, and learning. I participated in the 2017 Students on Ice Arctic Expedition which sailed from Resolute Bay, Nunavut, Canada, to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. Here is a tiny look into my wonderful Students on Ice journey!
My 2017 Students on Ice Arctic Expedition experience began in Ottawa, Ontario with a pre-program for the Northern participants. This included participants, elders, educators, and leaders from all across the circumpolar North. Nunavut, Nunavik, Nunatsiavut, Inuvialuit Region, Greenland, and Alaska. This pre-program ran for a couple days where we got to know each other through ice breakers, workshops, and sharing of our stories and talents. It was a great way to build on your own knowledge of Inuit homelands, by getting to know the experience of life on Inuit Nunaat from others across the circumpolar North. One particular eye opener for me, was meeting a participant from Alaska. It was interesting to learn about the differences in culture, in part due to the national border that separates the US and Canada. But more specifically, I was fascinated to learn about our similarities in life as Inuit, or as Indigenous Peoples, the border between us notwithstanding. These similarities span from Nunavut to Alaska, and East, from Canada to Greenland—values of the land, of family, and of practicing and preserving our traditions and culture. The pre-program for the expedition was meant to bring us together, with the knowledge of our homeland, and prepare us as ambassadors of the North. The remaining participants, those from other provinces in Canada, and from different countries around the world, came after the two-day program. We had a couple ice breakers the night before boarding the Ocean Endeavour, to get to know each other. We played some Inuit Games, and tried to do a square dance.
Day One rolled around and we flew from Ottawa, Canada to Resolute Bay, in Canada’s Arctic. There we attended the announcement of Qausuittuq Park, from Federal Minister Katherine McKenna, PJ Akeeagok president of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, and the Deputy Minister (I believe) of Environment, David Akeeagok. Along with the announcement, artist Celina Kalluk, who originates from the area, sang songs that were related to the families and land of the area.
Students on Ice was also fortunate to attend the announcement of Canada’s largest Marine Conservation Area, Tallurutiup Imanga (Lancaster Sound), measuring an area of 109,000 square kilometres. The protection of this area in Canada’s Arctic is comparable to twice the size of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. It was an honour to attend an announcement so important to Inuit, to Canada, and in the long run, to the world.
After the announcement of the opening of Qausuittuq National Park, we boarded our floating home for the next two weeks. On board, we attended workshops of our choice. These workshops varied in topic from science and climate change to reconciliation and cultural identity. We participated in these workshops throughout the expedition.
It was my goal to make Students on Ice as much of a learning experience as possible, so some of the workshops I chose were sometimes outside of my comfort zone. Some of them include, Finding Your Political Voice, held by Bruce Heymen and Nancy Karetak-Lindell, History of Inuit Dog Sledding, by Shari Fox Gearheard, Indigenous Identities, which was a panel that included Becky Mearns, Jessice Bolduc, Ivalu Rosling, and Brandon Pardy. These are just a few of the amazing workshops and presentations that were available to all of the participants and staff aboard the ship this year.
As the days continued, many of us began to lose a sense of time and day. With day-filled schedules, no cell phone or internet service, and so much learning at our fingertips, nobody really cared about what day it was. Our days were never set in stone, but each day typically consisted of attending workshops, eating delicious food (thank you, Ocean Endeavour crew!), adventuring on land to a historic site, or simply going ashore to do workshops, and reflecting on our own experience individually or in groups. The experiences created, either on land, learning about the history of Inuit at historic sites, visiting different communities along the way, or in workshops aboard the ship, were life-changing. As an Inuk, I found that it was an opportunity to share my culture, share the beauty and vastness of my homelands, and meet new faces from all over Canada, and the World. Students on Ice was an opportunity to build upon the knowledge I have about Inuit and our land, but was also an opportunity to witness other people and their discovery of the Arctic through their own lenses. These moments were my absolute favourite part about this year’s Students on Ice expedition. Sharing what I know, building on that knowledge, but also witnessing people from all around the world grow an appreciation for the Arctic, for Inuit, and for Indigenous Peoples.
I personally would like to thank the Students on Ice Foundation, from the staff on board to the staff in Ottawa, the sponsors who brought this wonderful group of people together, and the staff aboard the Ocean Endeavour for creating an experience that touched and/or changed the lives of everyone on board. The Students on Ice experience contributes to building a knowledge about Indigenous Peoples in Canada, that undermines what many Canadian youth are taught in schools. This experience shines light to some of Canada’s history that the government has repeatedly attempted to hide and/or doesn’t propagate. This was a life-changing and educational experience that will contribute to creating a healthier, safer, and truly multicultural future for Canada. Thank you to the International participants and staff who came into this experience with an open mind and heart, and for carrying this knowledge with you for the rest of your lives. Students on Ice was educational in the realization of the reality and rapidity of climate change and sea level rise, of the reality for Indigenous Peoples in Canada today and in the past, and was also an opportunity to meet many people with curiosities and lenses that sprout from all over the world. I am truly grateful to have participated in this year’s expedition, and will continue to be thankful for this experience for the rest of my life.
Alexia is a third-year student at Carleton University. Click here to read her profile on our blog. Each year, Adventure Canada sponsors an Inuk youth from one of the four Inuit regions of Canada to take part in Students On Ice, established in 2000 “to educate the world’s youth about the importance of the Polar Regions, to support their continued growth and to inspire initiatives that contribute to global sustainability.” We are proud to partner with such a worthy organization, and delighted to have sponsored Alexia on her journey.