Students on Ice: Connecting with the inuit culture


    Students experience the unforgettable thrill of having a massive Humpback surface mere metres away from their zodiac. Photo: Lee Narraway

    By Chaim Andersen

    My name is Chaim Andersen. I am an Inuk girl from Nain, a little town in Newfoundland, Canada, of approximately 1,300 people. This summer was one of the best of my life because I applied for a job with Parks Canada that involved the Students on Ice Expedition 2014.

    Just a couple days after submitting my application, I received a call from Gary Baikie, Visitor Experience Manager at Parks Canada. He told me the position required a passport, which I did not have. It would be hard to get because no one in Nain had the permits to take a passport photo. However, fortunately, we were able to finish the process of getting a passport for me by the month of June, and, once I had it, I was so excited I could not wait for the expedition to start. All I could think about was being in the Torngat Mountains National Park and Greenland, and meeting so many new people and learning so many different things.

    When the time did come for the expedition I was in awe, just letting every good experience roll in and absorbing anything and everything. I was so happy being on the ship and out on the land and having so many good times with so many new friends. I was always in the moment; everything was so surreal, like a dream come true. It was so amazing and it had a huge impact on my life. I opened up my eyes more just to see that so many doors for opportunities had opened up for me.

    There were so many things we did on the Students on Ice Expedition and, honestly, I absolutely loved every bit of the whole trip. I could never have asked for more than what I’ve gotten out of the trip.

    After going home I felt really good about myself because I was one of two students from my hometown who had a chance to go on this amazing trip. Being able to go from a little, isolated community on an experience so huge that you can’t really put into words, made me feel significant, like I could make a difference in my community.

    I was happy to be home but I would go back to such an expedition in a heartbeat.

    Yet, once I returned from the expedition, I had the opportunity to work with Parks Canada through their Youth Ambassador Program in the Torngat Mountains National Park (TMNP) and at the base camp. There I did some work with the Kangidluasuk Student Program that takes Inuit youth from Nunatsiavut and Nunavut to the Park for three weeks. I went on hikes, island tours, a couple of boat cruises, and shared some shore lunches with visitors and guests and the students at the park. We had some base camp days because the weather was bad but, trust me, base camp days are just as fun as going on outings.

    Just like Students on Ice, it was an amazing experience. TMNP is a place with a lot of culture that connects to the land, culture of our Inuit ancestors that is threaded through generation after generation. Elders came every week and told us stories about how they used to live off the land and how they were nomadic Inuit. They had stories of what they used to do as children, stories about their families, and sometimes they would tell us about their times of hardship.

    They had the most touching words.

    The land is so beautiful and the people are so beautiful. I think it’s the most amazing place to be in the world, probably because I have a connection as an Inuit. But I think for anyone, it would not be hard to fall in love with the place. The whole summer has been so fulfilling and my dreams are just coming to life. For me, I felt a huge impact being around Inuit from Nunavik, Nunavut and Greenland on the Students on Ice ship, and in base camp with Inuit from both Nunatsiavut and Nunavik. I learned so many more things about my culture and the way of life of the elders. I made a really strong connection with that, and it made me change the way I look at the world and the way I think about some of the things around me. Just being able to know about my culture is so important because here in Nunatsiavut we’ve almost lost all of our language and children aren’t learning our culture as much as in the past. Our culture is dying but I’m happy I had the chance to learn so much more about it.

    Read more Student on Ice reports:
    Life is an adventure by Addison Asuchak
    Reflections on my SOI experience by Alistair Walker


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