This is Monica Rumbolt’s first-person column visual artist who self-identifies as an Inuk from Nunatukavut.. She now lives in Labrador City, The Netherlands with her husband and daughter. For more information on CBC first-person stories, see the FAQ.
It was like a cool autumn afternoon when northerly winds lashed the stern of the boat, leaving streaks of salty seawater on the windshield.
But actually it was the end of June, since my so much (grandfather) traveled along the shallow ridges along the coastline, interrupting his conversation with his grandmother from time to time to make small adjustments to his itinerary. Few people would venture into these rough waters without the help of an experienced fisherman. However, my grandparents have traveled this route to Grand Caribou for over 40 years.
I am a sixth generation islander. We were going to our seasonal camp, Indian Cove. The small community located in the south of Labrador is about 30 minutes by boat from Mary’s Harbor. Like nearby Battle Harbor, its tiny houses are nestled among sun-bleached rocky hills. At the height of the cod fishing, the community had several shops, a church and a school. Now only well-kept houses and blue fig irises remain. This is where most of my favorite childhood memories were born.
From Inuit burial grounds to secret beaches, Great Caribou Island had a lot to offer to an adventurous kid.
When we got to my grandfather’s stage to clean the catch, my daughter Abigail squealed with excitement.
She was three years old and her sense of wonder surpassed mine at her age. I knew it was time to start passing on to her what I knew about our culture.
“Let her explore like you”
The transfer of knowledge can be complex. This is not a family recipe that you can write on a piece of paper in the hope that it will come in handy later. It is a mixture of learned behavior and lessons from blood memory and curiosity.
A simple walk along a rocky shore teaches agility and balance, while combing the shore allows you to sharpen your senses and focus – all highly valued skills of a hunter in a northern climate. As a relatively young mom, I was nervous and unprepared. I was still on my way to regaining my identity.
“Let her explore like you” mine so much would say. “Let her learn about her territory.” Here’s what I did.
In the mornings, when the tides were at their highest, we went to our salmon nets to check for catches. When we got home, we cleaned curvature (salmon) on stage.
Many toddlers would turn their backs on horror movie levels of blood and guts, but Abby enjoyed playing in the mess with her little butter knife, mimicking our movements and pretending to clean her own salmon, proudly holding whatever capelin she freed from his insides. intestines.
When I sharpened mine growth (a crescent-shaped knife), she watched in fascination as I explained all the intricacies of salmon, showing her the liver and caviar – a delicious delicacy for the Inuit.
I remembered how I found out that I ate salmon at her age in this way. My grandfather always spoke quietly while I watched him clean the fish. He showed me the signs of a sick salmon and warned me to keep the water clean so they could always return home.
Drink tea and tell stories
As the tide ebbed, our lessons moved inland to moss-covered rocks and swamps, where the smell of ripening berries and stagnant swamp water hung in the air. As with water, there was much to learn about the creatures and plants that lived on the island. This was my favorite place to study with my grandmother.
When I was distracted from my memories, the chatty little girl, as we walked to the bay, asked endless questions about what is safe to eat and when it is possible to eat it. We drank Labrador tea, told stories by the windswept spruce, and picked many wild flowers along ancient caribou trails.
As Abigail’s happy giggle filled the quietness of the deserted bay, I felt relieved. I realized that my childhood was never just fun, but rich in culture, filled with lessons learned in the lands and waters of my home here on Great Caribou.
Looking back at this moment, I realized how special our time was. Some residents told us that for the first time in about 200 years they spotted a baby caribou and its mother on the island. These animals were killed as a result of over-hunting and have not yet returned to the island. These caribou return to the old caribou trails laid down by their ancestors and thrive on the food the land has to offer.
I think it’s a sign of resilience. Like my own family, when we embrace and pass on our culture to our new generation, we can reclaim what was once lost. By following the same paths as our ancestors, we will always find what we need to eat.
Looking back, my grandparents taught me the best they could, allowing me to live and experience their culture. Our teachings and traditions are built into our daily lives, like our ancestors and their ancestors before them.
The transmission of knowledge is important to Inuit families. This is what has allowed us to thrive and live among these harsh coastal waters. We don’t just practice our culture; we live it.
Identity politics aside, the only bonding factor that all Inuit have is a great love and respect for our culture. It connects us to the lands and waters, giving us a deep knowledge of our environment, our people and our sense of self. It is important that our youth know—regardless of appearance or location— He called with a shudder (be proud of who you are).
When we sailed from the island, I felt a sense of pride in my chest.
I know the next generation was in good hands.
Learn more about the Nunatukavut Inuit identity dispute.
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