“We have a voice”

The people of Clyde River are hoping their legal protests can drown out plans to conduct seismic testing in Baffin Bay

Her home and native land (Photo: Greenpeace)

Clara Natanine

I grew up in Clyde River, Nunavut with my parents, grandparents, siblings and many other relatives. Though mine is just one story, it’s one Canada needs to hear.

Where we live, on the coast of Baffin Island, looking out over the Arctic Ocean, is far away from any big towns or urban centres. There are no roads leading into Clyde River and the only way to access our community is by plane or ship, unless you are travelling by snowmobile (or sometimes dog sledge) from somewhere else on the island. Just over a thousand people live here, but there is only one store that sells food, clothing and everything else we need — and at a very high price.

The reason I am writing to tell you about my home is that we are facing one of the most important fights of our lives. The Canadian government has allowed a seismic testing project to go ahead in the waters near where I live. This means that oil-exploration companies could soon be firing loud underwater sound blasts to search for oil under the sea floor in Baffin Bay and Davis Strait. Even though this threatens our way of life, the government has not listened to us.

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Seismic testing is a threat to marine animals and could disrupt migration patterns and our hunting seasons. All my life, my relatives and I have lived on our traditional food – also known as country food – such as seal, Arctic char, narwhals and other animals that live in the sea and on the land that surrounds us.

Country food means a lot to us. It is our soul food. It makes us feel better when we haven’t had it for a while, and gives us warmth and strength. It is food for the family, and food for the people who can’t afford to buy anything at the store.

Hunting is our history and culture. My grandparents told me stories of the way they lived, and I believe those stories were for me to understand and follow in their footsteps. My father and most of my uncles go hunting for animals out on the ocean or the tundra that are edible to us.

I have my whole life ahead of me and I may be a parent someday as well. I want my kids to know these traditional ways, the Inuit way of life. I want them to understand why the animals are so important to us.

But, these big companies stand to destroy our heritage and our ability to pass it on to our children. As the new generation, I could never forgive them and the people who approved it. If they are allowed to go ahead, they will profit, but the residents of Clyde River will not, and we could lose the happiness of hunting, eating, skinning and sewing traditional clothing.

But we have a voice and we have something to say about this. That is why we are going to the Supreme Court of Canada on November 30 in an effort to get this project stopped. We have rights as Inuit and those rights have been ignored.

I will not grow old without a tradition. A culture. A love for the beautiful land and ocean, the beautiful animals and the amazing strong ways of living as an Inuk. All of this is too important to the core of who I am, and who we all are, as Inuit.

The author is a resident of Kangiqtugaapik (Clyde River) and an active member of the Unite Against Seismic Testing group. She is the daughter Jerry Natanine, a former mayor of the hamlet.

Originally published by The Arctic Journal.

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