Nunavut is currently experiencing a population growth where Inuit now make up the youngest population in Canada, with 51 per cent being under the age of 25. Inuit typically make up at least 90 per cent of the population in communities in Nunavut, with the exception of the capital Iqaluit, where half the population are Inuit and the other half non-Inuit Canadians. It is common to hear local Nunavummiut voice the loss of traditional culture and the Inuktitut language in Iqaluit, where more people are taking on a more southern way of life. This young generation is growing alongside a quickly-changing arctic, and there are many practical skills that are not being taught in the colonial education system.
Alex Flaherty of Polar Outfitting and his team of hunters have been taking youth out of the land since 2018 to teach traditional Inuit skills in hunting and arctic survival, funded with the help of Ilitaqsiniq (Nunavut Literacy Council). I joined in on a few of these outings where I met many capable young men, including a 10 year old boy, Kaniq Allerton, whom I watched grow over a year. Subsistence hunting is an incredible human activity that connects people with the land and the cycle of life. Spending time with these boys showed me both the fun and the responsibility in Inuit adolescence as they learned the skills necessary to go from boyhood to become confident arctic hunters.
Kaniq Allerton performs a cartwheel while a group of young hunters watch Kevin Kullualik perform a rifle demonstration.
After Alex Flaherty turns off the engine of the boat, Kaniq Allerton and the rest of the crew quietly scan the water for ringed seal.
Jack Allakariallak and Simaniq Kootoo watch as older hunters recover a snowmobile from the ditch.
Shipping sea cans have been repurposed to serve as a simple office with a small portable stove and heater so during days when people work on their hunting tools outside, they can make hot coffee and warm up.
The boys watch as Kevin Kullualik demonstrates how to scrape off ice from a seal hook (niksik), which is used to pull seal out of the water.
Kaniq Allerton has a close look at a recently killed harp seal during a hunt in October.
Kaniq Allerton takes part in figure skating practice. Kaniq and his sister, Béatrice, have been figure skating for a few years. During practice at the ice rink in Iqaluit, Kaniq uses the same focus and confidence he has when on the land.
Kaniq Allerton, left, and Inuki Wilman practice their harpooning skills using a juice box as a target.
Damian Young drives the boat while Alex Flaherty is outside on the bow scanning the water for ringed seal.
Shortly after a snow fall, the roads got icy and Simaniq veered his snowmobile into a ditch. It took a few pairs of hands to guide it out.
Inuki Wilman, left, and Béatrice Allerton have fun playing baseball with a pop can to pass time while Kaniq works on his hunting tools during a workshop.
Kaniq Allerton sits with his harpoon on a Sunday morning before a toolmaking workshop.
Kaniq Allerton checks out his harpoon head before filing it down to size.
At the end of Kaniq's first hunt in November of 2018, he falls asleep at the back of the boat.
The hunting group stops for lunch at Kevin Kullualik’s cabin, during which the younger boys watched The Goonies.
Dusk arrives at 3:00pm in December, cutting the hunting days short. The group heads back to the heated workshop by a caravan of snowmobiles after a cold day of setting up seal nets on the ice.