Arviat (Eskimo Point):

October 1977 � May 1978

Arviat � meaning �Place of the bowhead whale� in Inuktituk.

After a basic 3 day Arctic survival and orientation course, I was flown into Eskimo Point, on the north west coast of the mighty Hudson Bay. Recruited by Canadian Health and Welfare to take up the position of one of two nurse/midwives based at the Health Centre in this 2,00 strong traditional Inuit settlement.

This was an experience like no other. Above the tree line, this is the land of tundra, a perma frozen desert reaching out endlessly toward the distant horizon. The Health Centre was comfortable and well equipped. Responsibilities encompassed delivering babies, ante and post natal care of mothers; vaccination programmes, schools health, first aid and general care of all health issues.

The traditional hunting of caribou, beluga whale and seal formed the staple diet, with clothing made from caribou skins. The men hunted, the women butchered. Skilled hunters were respected and had status within the community.

Regularly when I visited homes, several women would likely be sitting in a circle, laughing and chattering together, surrounded by mounds of intestines in one corner, livers in another, hearts in another, the floor wet with blood as they deftly carved up the caribou carcasses with the curved blade of the traditional ulu. Grinning broadly, I was offered a slice of raw liver by the women on many an occasion, but always told them I was trying to give it up! This excuse always made them roar laughing.

Witnessing the generational shift of fathers hunting with dogs and komatiks to sons and their petrol driven skiddoo's foretold of unstoppable change. In her second book Anne will return to Arviat to see if her premonitions have come true.

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