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Beluga whale-harvesting featured in exhibit

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Myrna Pokiak’s family in the smokehouse part of the exhibit. © Canadian Museum of Nature

Now until September 13, 2021, a new exhibition at the Canadian Museum of Nature, Qilalukkat! Belugas and Inuvialuit: Our Survival Together, explores the importance of beluga whales to Inuvialuit — Inuit of the Western Canadian Arctic. Curated by Myrna Pokiak, an Inuvialuit cultural educator born and raised in Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, the exhibit is situated within the Canada Goose Arctic Gallery. 

Beluga whale‐harvesting has long been a vital part of Inuvialuit life. Inuvialuit families have an annual harvest every summer when the whales return to the Mackenzie River estuary. One whale provides a year’s worth of food for a family. The beluga whale harvest is a necessity for the physical, spiritual and mental health of Inuvialuit families and communities. 

The beluga harvest in the Western Canadian Arctic is sustainable — part of a co‐management program with Inuvialuit and Fisheries and Oceans Canada that includes monitoring, research, education, tourism, and guidelines for shipping routes. 

Through text panels, specimens, artefacts, models, photos, and videos, visitors will gain insights into Inuvialuit culture and traditions. The exhibit includes a re‐created smokehouse and food preparation area with displays of modern and traditional tools, models of drying whale meat (mipqu) and whale blubber and skin (muktuk), specimens such as a beluga skull, and artefacts such as an ulu — an all‐purpose knife used by several Northern cultures but typically created in a triangular shape by the Inuvialuit. 

Also view an overview of the exhibit and a collection of the videos in the exhibit that show the Pokiak family experiencing the hunt, life on the land, and the ice house in Tuktoyaktuk at

Qilalukkat! Belugas and Inuvialuit: Our Survival Together is presented in partnership with the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre.