After 4 straight days of successful samplings, today that was originally planned as a “spare day” for sampling turns out to be a free day. Curious on seeing a sunrise in Salluit at 62 degree north, I got up around 4 am hoping to capture the sunrise. To my disappointment, it was cloudy with drizzle drops accompanied by south-easterly winds, making every drop felt like freezing ice for me, a Solomon Islander. I was busy trying to pull down my jacket’s sleeve when the grasses below me moved.
Trying to figure what was causing the disturbance, there hiding in camouflage among the grass-roots was a lemming. Lemmings are small rodents, closely related to the common field mouse, and they inhabit the vast treeless areas of the northern Canada and Alaska. Their populations recur every three to four years, and they serve as food for animals of the tundra areas.
Lemming feed primarily on grasses, sedges, seeds, willow bark, bearberry and cotton-grasses. There had been evidence that lemming can switch to cannibalism when their food source is scare. During winter, unlike other rodents, lemmings are active all year around. They burrow under snow instead of hibernating. The lemming sat quietly in its hiding spot while I tried taking pictures of it. The darkness gave way to a bright morning, welcoming the daylight.
Spoken languages around the village are mostly native Inuktitut and English. Although some residents also use French. A lady from northern Salluit, Elizabeth, wanted to show me around their village, so I agreed to meet her around mid-morning that day.
She pointed to a white painted building in the centre of the village, and introduced it as an Anglican church. Christianity, particularly Anglican was introduced in 1955, and the first church building was constructed two years later in 1957. It was rebuilt in 2005.
There is a community centre, where youth gatherings and other community activities are held. Another building that looked vacant was a centre, where Salluit women do training activities.
Salluit, like other Inuit communities, are faced with changes on their traditional way of life such as hunting (no farming), making of clothes, country foods, arctic survival skills, visual and performing arts, legends and myths, and communal living (sharing, working collectively for the benefit of the whole community). My kind friend, in a stern voice tried to explain challenges their community faced, and how much they as a community are trying to preserve their traditional way of life.
Thanking her for her kind gestures, I left realizing that, although Salluit is in the northern tip of Canada, the challenges they faced concerning preservation of traditional way of life, seem familiar to the issues my home country, 9 degrees south of equator, Solomon Islands are also facing, and probably many other cultures too are facing.
Gaining insights into Salluit way of life, their environment and the wonders of tundra inspired me.
Merry Sailonga Faluaburu