Notes from an Arctic church.In Kugluktuk, Nunavut Kugluktuk (Inuinnaqtun: Qurluktuk, Inuktitut: ᖁᕐᓗᖅᑐᖅ, formerly Coppermine until 1 January, 1996) is a hamlet located in Nunavut, Canada, on Coronation Gulf, southwest of Victoria Island. , fifteen hundred people live nestled between tundra and Arctic Ocean Arctic Ocean, the smallest ocean, c.5,400,000 sq mi (13,986,000 sq km), located entirely within the Arctic Circle and occupying the region around the North Pole. . No roads reach the community, and you won't find a cinema, a restaurant, or even a bank. You will, however, find Our Lady of Light Catholic Church just a few metres from the shore. Built in 1963, the church reflects the tight interweaving of Catholicism with traditional Inuit culture: the roof recalls that of an igloo igloo (ĭg`l) [Inuit,=house]. The Eskimos traditionally had three types of houses. , the Stations of the Cross Stations of the Cross
depictions of episodes of Christ’s death. [Christianity: Brewer Dictionary, 1035]
See : Passion of Christ are sewn sealskin seal·skin
1. The pelt or fur, especially the underfur, of a seal.
2. A garment made of sealskin.
the skin or prepared fur of a seal, used to make coats , and two large tusks stand upright by the altar.
The first Catholic priest arrived in the settlement in 1913, and the last, Father Oliva Lapointe, left in 1992 after forty years of service to the community. Recently, the Arctic Diocese has suffered a shortage of clergy. Since Father Lapointe's departure, the Kugluktuk congregation has celebrated only one yearly Mass in its stunning chapel on the edge of the Arctic Ocean.
The territory of Nunavut (which means "our land") stretches some 1.9 million square kilometres and is nearly one-fifth the size of Canada. The Nunavut Land Claim Agreement and legislation was passed on April 1, 1999, leading to the creation of this new territory; it is the largest land claim settlement in Canadian history.
The story of Nunavut and the Inuit who make their lives there is an ancient one going back over thousands of years. The recorded history Recorded history can be defined as history that has been written down or recorded by the use of language, whereas history is a more general term referring simply to information about the past. It starts in the 4th millennium BC, with the invention of writing. of Baffin Island Baffin Island, 183,810 sq mi (476,068 sq km), c.1,000 mi (1,610 km) long and from 130 to 450 mi (210–720 km) wide, in the Arctic Ocean, Nunavut Territory, Canada. It is the fifth largest island in the world and the easternmost member of the Arctic Archipelago. began in 1576 with Martin Frobisher Martin Frobisher (c. 1535 or 1539 – November 22, 1594) was an English seaman (from Wakefield, Yorkshire) who made three voyages to the New World to look for the Northwest Passage. All landed in northeastern Canada, around today's Resolution Island and Frobisher Bay. . Henry Hudson followed in 1610 as he sailed along the south coast of Baffin Island into Hudson Bay. Five years later, William Baffin and Robert Bylot mapped the coast in search of the Northwest Passage. In the early 19th century, the search for the Northwest Passage came in vogue again when John Ross entered Lancaster Sound in 1818.
He was followed by William Edward Parry
Sir William Edward Parry (December 19, 1790 – 8 or 9 July, 1855) was an English rear-admiral and Arctic explorer. who discovered the entrances to Admiralty and Navy Board inlets. In 1821, he passed two winters exploring and mapping the Igloolik area and established good relations with the Inuit. In 1845, John Franklin, commanding a large expedition in search of the passage, sailed through Lancaster Sound and into oblivion. These explorations continued on until 1940 when the British-Canadian Arctic Expedition completed most of the geographical investigation of Foxe Basin. In the 1950s and the 1960s, federal schools were built in most communities. A mammoth housing program was undertaken in the mid-1950s, and Inuit in general abandoned traditional camp life as a permanent lifestyle.
Father Arsene Turquetil, an Oblate ob·late 1
1. Having the shape of a spheroid generated by rotating an ellipse about its shorter axis.
2. priest, established a Catholic mission at Chesterfield Inlet in 1912. From there Catholicism spread to Eskimo Point, Southampton Island, Baker Lake, and even to Baffin Island. The Oblates built a hospital and established a Grey Nuns convent in 1931 and an old folks' home in 1938. In 1951, they built the first school in the eastern Arctic; from 1954 on they also operated a large residential school until 1970, when the government of the Northwest Territories assumed responsibility for education.
Shamanism shamanism /sha·man·ism/ (shah´-) (sha´mah-nizm?) a traditional system, occurring in tribal societies, in which certain individuals (shamans) are believed to be gifted with access to an invisible spiritual is the original religion of the Inuit. It is common to perhaps all hunting cultures around the world and embodies the people's attachment to the land and environment. In traditional Inuit society, the shaman was seen as a doctor-advisor-healer. Their camps sometimes had more than one shaman. That person had to have the ability to vision, to see spirits. The shamans were born, not made. Although shamanism was never meant as an instant remedy for all problems--as with Christianity and other religions--shamanism was respected and used only as a last resort.
Today, the cult of shamanism in Nunavut is still secret, not openly practised as it is in other circumpolar cir·cum·po·lar
1. Located or found in one of the Polar Regions.
2. Astronomy Denoting a star that from a given observer's latitude does not go below the horizon. countries such as Russia. The missionary life followed the rhythm of life of the Inuit. Oblate fathers and brothers had to learn how to travel with dog teams, and how to hunt and survive in the tough climate of the North. In 1983, Bishop Robidoux wrote, "Presently, our missionary and apostolic work faces new challenges in front of the rapid development of the North. The greatest of all is to reveal the Risen Christ to a world in continuous change, full of controversial theories and innovations, affecting the spiritual as well as the material and cultural aspect of the native peoples."
The Church today is trying to be present to the people who are facing those challenges in their lives, offering the values of Christian life as an answer to the most important questions of the human person. With the common effort of the missionaries and lay Christians, the Catholic community is building the Church rooted in the 2000 years of Christian tradition and attentive to values of the historical Inuit heritage.
Michelle Mulder is a freelance travel writer based in Port Moody, B.C. She has worked with Christian organizations in the Dominican Republic and Peru.