Live in Kugluktuk: CBC host reflects on 10 days in Nunavut hamlet
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Marc Winkler, host of CBC's The Weekender, visited Kugluktuk for a weekend of shows and 10 days of stories
Marc Winkler, host of CBC North's The Weekender, headed to Kugluktuk, Nunavut in January to broadcast remotely from the Nunavut hamlet. He spent ten days in the community, getting to know it and its people. Here's his recollection, in his own words.
There were a few reasons I decided to head to Kugluktuk last month. I wanted to find out how people were adjusting to the lifting of alcohol restrictions in December, I wanted to broadcast our weekend morning show from somewhere other than our Yellowknife studio, and, above all, it had been a while since I'd been in a small coastal community in the dead of winter, and I missed the feeling.
Some people might find this counter-intuitive, but there's something comforting about the lack of light: the pace of life slows down and everyone is in it together.
One of the first people I met was the chair of the Hunters and Trappers Organization, Larry Adjun. He was hunched over his snowmobile, screwdriver in hand.
I wanted to know what was happening out on the land, but Larry had been spending his free time trying to get his machine running and hadn't been doing much hunting or trapping. He put me in touch with one of Kugluktuk's top trappers, John Kapakatoak.
I walked straight over to John's house. His daughter was visiting and preparing supper and his grandchildren were curious about this guy with a microphone. John said he'd usually be out at his cabin trapping this time of year, but that this year there were no foxes, so he was taking it easy. I took a picture of him here with his bush radio, chatting with friends.
John invited me for a bite to eat, but I had to decline because I was due to meet Kugluktuk's table tennis team. The team meets a few times a week in the high school's gym. Five of the six members of Nunavut's Table Tennis team for this April's Canada Winter Games are from Kugluktuk.
Plans were coming together to tape The Weekender at a drum dance later in the week. I was inviting a lot of people to the show, so I thought I'd try to be a good host and pick up some snacks.
At the Northern Store, the cashier's haircut caught my eye. I asked Mark Lucassie if there were barbers in town and he said no, and added he wouldn't trust anybody else with his 'do anyhow. He cuts it himself.
Pam Inuktalik and Nancy Kadlun started drum dancing together a few years ago and started a group called Tauryuit Numiktiit. They now host monthly dances, and they invited me to come along to record my weekend morning show — an incredible offer.
I was feeling nervous about how it was all going to work. How do you record an hour long radio show at a drum dance?
Luckily, the dancers were very accommodating and let me interrupt them now and then to ask questions about how they came to dance together and what the dances and songs mean to them.
One of the most impressive parts of the evening was when elder Catherine Kuneluk performed a dance called aquarmiutaaq, where the dancer wears a cap with weasel fur tied to the end of a loon beak. Nancy told me that it was traditionally a romantic dance, and that when a man and woman do the dance together, it meant they were partners.
The rest of my time in the community went by quickly. I spent some time out on the ocean 'jiggling' for whitefish with a group who seemed to pull a fish out of their ice holes every five minutes. There also seemed to be lots to do for recreation. I popped in (with my banjolele) to a jam session that high school counsellor Kenny Taptuna hosts every now and then in the school's music room.
Dettrick Hokanak brought his accordion, and told me how he came to be the only accordion player in the hamlet. I strapped on some of the loaner skates at the afternoon public skate. And there's a wood shop at the elders centre that was busy with men making crafts and tools Saturday afternoon, while later in the evening a women's sewing group would meet under the same roof.
I saw a lot of young folks in Kugluktuk sporting purple-dyed fox fur around their collars. Here's Max Jancke, 3, showing off a parka his mom Patricia sewed for him from fox and seal.
After nine days of walking around Kugluktuk, I knew my way around town and was running into familiar faces everywhere: stopping in for tea, sitting down for burgers at the co-op.
I got that cozy feeling I was looking for. Thanks to all in the community for their hospitality, especially to those who let me into their homes and took the time to tell me about themselves.