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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


July 28, 2001 - Issue 41


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The Summer Comes Alive for Junior Rangers
More than 150 Nunavik youth learn on the land.


 by Miriam Hill Nunatsiaq News-July 13, 2001


photo courtesy Public Works and Government Services Canada

KANGIRSUK - Sunday begins no differently than any other day at the 10-day Junior Canadian Rangers training camp in Nunavik.

About three kilometres from Kangirsuk at the edge of Ungava Bay, sleepy heads roll off pillows at about 6 a.m.

By 6:30 a.m. shouts of "Left, left, left, right, left!" can be heard throughout the camp. One-hundred-and-fifty-two Junior Canadian Rangers and 78 staff begin Day Six of the exercise.

The Junior Canadian Rangers is a youth program for males and females ages 12-18 who live in isolated communities. It is affiliated with the Canadian Rangers, who act as leaders, and promotes traditional and life skills as well as Ranger skills.

Every year a member of the Canadian Forces validates the local programs.

After a breakfast, the Junior Rangers, clad in green sweatshirts and ball caps emblazoned with the red ranger symbol, are on marching drill. The sun is out, but the wind is still cold enough to keep the mosquitoes away.

Suddenly a Junior Ranger who has been holding his group’s flag falls face-first into the dirt.

Chief Warrant Officer Rick Temple races to his side and reminds the others that they are not to let anyone fall. The boy is hurried to the medical tent.

This is the fifth time that such a training camp has been held in Nunavik.

Six Junior Rangers from each community in Nunavik, along with their Ranger corporal, were invited to attend, and a further two were permitted at the cost of the local program.

The full 18-member contingent from Kangirsuk was permitted to attend, as it didn’t cost the Forces any money to get them to the site.

Traditional values
The program has shifted over the years from a military-style cadet camp to this year’s version, which promotes traditional life skills.

Capt. Daniel Lamoureux was responsible for planning the training held at the camp.

"We took an evaluation of last year’s camp and did almost a 180-degree turn," he explains. He spoke with community elders and Rangers and a consensus was reached that traditional life skills should be taught.

That means instead of orienteering, rappelling or seamanship the youth are learning skills from their own cultures.

"Give ‘er to her, my son," squawks a lean boy dressed in white coveralls as his group-mate learns to skin a caribou.

"That’s right, cool," says 14-year-old Nina Shattler from St-Augustine, as she watches a Ranger show how to smash a caribou leg with a rock to extract the marrow within.

A couple of kids dive for the delicacy, but others take some convincing. Finally Shattler and her friend take the plunge.

"There’s no taste to it," she says, but after a couple of seconds adds, "Oh, it tastes like rubber, I think."

Land lessons
At least four caribou are shot each day for food at the camp and for the juniors to practise skinning. The hides are left in the elements to tan and attracted a wolf to the camp, which was subsequently shot and skinned.

A polar bear killed last winter in the area was also used as a teaching aid.

Antlers from the caribou are also used in the carving class taught by a Ranger from Kangirsuk. After a safety lesson inside the tent, everyone moves outside to chose their medium.

Soapstone, wood and caribou antlers are at their disposal. Some use chisels, files and other low-tech equipment while others prefer power tools.

The tent next door houses a session with elder George Annahatak. The same tent is used for lessons in cooking country foods, such as bannock and char, so as Annahatak speaks of snowmobiles and dog teams, the smell from the arctic char drying at the back of the tent fills the air.

Marksmanship is taught at the rifle range, well away from the camp. A large, long tent with an open side faces out over a field to the ocean where targets hang. After a morning of theoretical training, they practise with real ammunition.

After a military IMP (individual meal packet) for lunch, the campers regroup and head to their next station.

Three inuksuks stand on the hill just beside the camp, the handiwork of the Junior Rangers. Noah Uqittuq, 16, from Kangirsujuaq, moves away from the rock structure he’s helping to create. This is his third camp and he says he’s loved it all, except for "survivor."

The "survivor" he refers to is a trek they make to another site where they stay for 30 hours and learn how to build a shelter and eat off the land.

Elaisa Uqittuq, 16, from Kangirsujuaq, has been to one other training camp, but says she’s thrilled this year with all she’s learned.

"I made a ring and skinned a caribou for the first time," she says excitedly. "Oh, and I made bannock for the first time too." The camp is important for those reasons, she says, and to meet new people.

"It makes me proud of me," she says.

Complex planning
Planning for the camp began back in January. Capt. Luc Pinsonneault, operations manager of the exercise, explains that everything used — tents, generators, toilet paper — was brought by boat in one of four sea crates, or by one of two military aircraft.

Trucks were rented from Kangirsuk, and there are two military helicopters for travel and emergencies.

Pinsonneault estimates the camp costs about $325,000, with $200,000-coming from the Department of National Defense.

As the clock rolls closer to 5 p.m., thoughts turn again to food and the campers file into the dining tent.

But the day is not over. After eating, they reassemble in the space near the dining tent for games and sports. Curfew falls at 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. comes quickly.

 Maps by Travel

Junior Canadian Rangers
The Junior Canadian Ranger Programme offers young people in remote and isolated communities across Canada a unique opportunity to participate in a variety of fun and rewarding activities in a formal setting.

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Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.


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