Opinion | Nunavut’s treatment of Inuit sled dogs smacks of the very same conduct demonstrated by early explorers and traders claiming land and resources as their own
An open-letter addressed to John Quirke, the clerk of the Nunavut Legislative Assembly.
Dear Mr Quirke,
My name is Sue Hamilton. I am the owner, publisher and editor of The Fan Hitch, website and journal of the Inuit sled dog.
I am contacting you regarding historical information relative to the decision making process of choosing the Canadian Inuit dog (Qimmiq/Inuit sled dog) in May 2000 as Nunavut Territory’s Official Animal. Might you know the committee members who were part of the selection process and if they would be willing to talk with me now? Was the decision strongly supported, and why? And, most important to me (and to enthusiasts of the traditional aboriginal qimmiq), were there any plans or expectations at that time to do more for this symbol of Nunavut beyond the declaration and creation of posters and a cloisonné pin?
Perhaps you sense my frustration, you might even say outright anger at the latest assault on Nunavut’s Official Animal and Iqaluit dog team owners who are struggling to maintain this endangered cultural treasure. In Nunavut’s capital, there have been several issues ongoing and unresolved for many years now, among them a request for a security fence surrounding the area where dog teams are picketed, a revision of the dog by-laws which was begun without first including dog team owners in the plans and discussion and, most recently, the evicting of dog teams from the West 40 sled dog site where teams had been kept for a very, very long time.
It seems ludicrous to me that there has been virtually no proactive efforts to validate that the designation of the Inuit Dog as the Territorial Animal acknowledged this dog as really meaning something to Inuit history and culture. Instead, this wilful lack of strategies to secure a future for the Inuit Dog seems more symptomatic of both the Government of Nunavut as well as the City of Iqaluit’s inclination towards erasing the past, life on the land in favor of concrete, steel and glass.
The comment by John Mabberi-Mudonyi, Iqaluit’s acting chief administrative officer, about the matter (“They’ve been squatting on that land. Historically, when it comes to sled dogs, everyone thinks of the North. Yes, it’s important to the image of Iqaluit, but should we jump just because [dog owners] want this?” ) is stunningly ignorant and insensitive and smacks of the very same conduct demonstrated by early explorers and traders claiming land and resources as their own, and missionaries who insisted their god and teachings were the one true way.
GN and the City of Iqaluit are repeating that very history! The dog owners of whom Mabberi-Mudonyi inarticulately speaks, instead of being denigrated, should be lauded and supported for their efforts and commitment to keep a millennia-old tradition alive as best they can, struggling without the support due to them as well as to Inuit tradition and culture!
In the past I have written to both GN (to you, in fact, in September 2013) and the City of Iqaluit on the importance of supporting traditional working Inuit Dogs in Iqaluit (and elsewhere in Nunavut). When anyone has bothered to respond, it was always a case of one government agency telling me it was an issue to be taken up with the other government agency.
It is long overdue that decades of hypocrisy be erased in order to prove that that the designation of Nunavut’s Official Animal fifteen years ago actually meant that this most basic icon of Inuit history would be preserved.
Copies sent to:
City of Iqaluit
Mary Ekho Wilman
The Arctic Journal
The author is the owner, publisher and editor of The Fan Hitch, a website and journal about Inuit sled dogs.
Originally published by The Arctic Journal.