Glass Ceiling Fire Water II

Glass Ceiling Fire Water IIGlass Ceiling Fire Water II

Perhaps Sarah was the only one who knew how serious it was. She was an Inuk and a grandmother. She knew the ripple effect of youth suicides.

I brought her with me to Carleton once and she felt something very uncomfortable there that made her shiver. By November 24, 2003 I was shivering all the time. I couldn’t get warm even when I returned south every three weeks. She brought me country food, and sewed special slippers and mittens without thumbs so I could get warm at night.

I still cannot remember the chronology of even the most important events that occurred after I returned from the Pangnirtung cemetery in June 2002?

I remember spending hours on this layered image using a very old version of Photoshop that came for free with a scanner? My screen was of such poor quality I couldn’t really see what I was doing.

I had taken a series of photos while canoeing on Bell Lake. There was one series in particular that I am fond of. The light that day illuminated a small forest of algae below us as we paddled silently just skimming the surface in our 1930s cedar canoe. The light played with ripples that mirrored the deep greens of the Gatineau in the summer.

I tried to be philosophical about what was happening . . . Glass half empty, half full.

I played with reflections from every angle. Reflexivity the metaphor inverted, rotated, fire, water, snow.

I had painted Angels of Fire and Snow first as a sketch and then as a large acrylic canvas in the 1980s in Pointe-Noire, Congo but we left it behind along with most of our belongings. When we returned to Canada I painted it again. It took me at least two months to complete it.

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

Angels of Fire and Snow by Joany Lincoln 1970s from the album Reflections of a New World

Angels Oh, Angels

Angels of fire and snow

Oh, Angels Oh, Angels of fire and snow

Behold the moth as it circles the candle, clings to the flame and dies

Behold the candle as it shares its light, weeps away its life drop by drop.

You fly, you weep, you burn in your love

You fly, you weep, you die for your love,

You fly, you weep, you share of your love,

Were it not for the tears, you would burn in the fire of your love

Were it not for the fire, you would drown in your tears.

Joany Lincoln and her family lived a number of years in French-speaking Africa, Bangui, Central African Republic where we met them. She’s also traveled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Congo-Kinshasa (formerly Zaire).

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

Random reading on youth suicide in Nunavut:

Bell, Jim. 2003. “Tragedy takes toll among youth with suicides at an all-time high: Nunatsiaq News. November 7.

Depalma, Anthony. 1999. “In New Land Of Eskimos, A New Chief Offers Hope.” New York Times. April 4.

Health Canada’s First Nations & Inuit Health Branch, in partnership with Assembly of First Nations and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami/National Inuit Youth Council published The National Aboriginal Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy in 2006.

Advertisements

Working for the Government in the North

[They] began to compare employee benefits between the Nunavut government and the federal government.
Y works for Customs and Immigration as a Custom’s officer. Y inquired about working for a summer term here. (Y’s father worked here last year.) Y was offered a two year contract. The federal government was not interested in hiring anyone for a short term contract. Y’s employment package would include: an apartment, a car, 2 trips south a year with 6 weeks vacation each?, 2 trips south for business, a salary of upwards of 70,000 plus northern benefits. The total package sounds like it would be $120, 000 for a Custom’s officer in a town of 7000 people with an airport that does not have international flights. Y’swork would be fairly abstract to say the least!

I have heard people snickering about the limited enrollment of Nursing and Law students here in Iqaluit and the cost of these programs.

Few people snicker at these obscene government employees packages that drive up prices in Iqaluit and exaggerate the have and have not divide.

Sons and daughters of these employees reap the added benefits of well paid, prestigious summer jobs.

I have been trying to understand the phenomenon of so many Government people working on weekends and evenings. Z explained that it is considered to be a part of many jobs. Work is scheduled with an assumption that people will be willing to work overtime on weekends. These government workers have three month vacations! They are encouraged to travel on business trips often. No wonder they have to work overtime to catch up!

The language they use is closed jargon. Even the location of their offices is very confusing. They refer to their buildings by number not by name.

Z noted that for the last budget he recommended that the government not instate the use of vouchers to replace cheques for welfare. Z’s suggestions were not listened to. This is one of the Nunavut government’s … advisors?????

Aflicktion: The Wreck of Hope


Aflicktion: The Wreck of Hope

Originally uploaded by ocean.flynn.

Aflicktion: The Wreck of Hope

Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2007. “Nanuq of the North II: Animal Rights vs Human Rights.” Speechless. Uploaded January 3, 2007.

The Bush administration took advantage of the way in which all eyes turn towards Santa’s North Pole, where big-eyed talking polar bears, reindeer and seals live in harmony, to announce that they would save these creatures from Nanook of the North. See story.
For a divergent point of view read Nunatsiak News article.
Nanook (nanuq Inuktitut for polar bear) was the name of the Eskimo hunter captured on film in the first documentary ever produced, Robert Flaherty’s (1922?) Nanook of the North, — still shown in film studies survey courses. Nanook the Stone Age-20the century hunter became an international legend as a lively, humourous and skillful hunter of polar bears, seals and white fox who tried to bite into the vinyl record Flaherty had brought with him. (The real “Nanook” died of tuberculosis as did countless Inuit from small communities ravaged by one of the worst epidemic’s of tuberculosis on the planet.)

On August 13, 1942 in Walt Disney studios’ canonical animated film Bambi it was revealed that many animals with cute eyes could actually talk and therefore shared human values. Nanook and his kind became the arch enemy of three generations of urban North Americans and Europeans. Hunters were bad. Cute-eyed animals that could talk were good. Today many animals’ lives have been saved from these allegedly cruel hunters by the billion dollar cute-eyed-talking-animals-industry.

The White House has once again come to the rescue of these vulnerable at-risk animals. (There was an entire West Wing episode in which a gift of moose meat was rejected by all staff since it came from a big-eyed-talking-animal. See Ejesiak and Flynn-Burhoe (2005) for more on how the urban debates pitting animal rights against human rights impacted on the Inuit.) Who would ever have suspected that the Bush administration cared so much about the environment that they would urge an end to the polar bear hunt, already a rare phenomenon to many Inuit since their own quotas protected them?

When I lived in the north the danger for polar bears did not reside in the hearts of hunters. Nanuq the polar bear who could not talk was starving. He hung out around hamlets like Churchill, Baker Lake or Iqaluit, looking for garbage since this natural habitat was unpredicatable as the climate changed. Some people even insisted that there was no danger from the polar bear who had wandered into town since he was ’skinny.’ That did not reassure me! I would have preferred to know that he was fat, fluffly and well-fed. Polar bears die from exhaustion trying to swim along their regular hunting routes as ice floes they used to be able to depend on melted into thin air literally. They die, not because there are not enough seals but because they need platform ice in the right seasons. That platform ice is disappearing. They die with ugly massive tumours in them developed from eating char, seals and other Arctic prey whose bodies are riddled with southern toxins that have invaded the pristine, vulnerable northern ecosystem. Nanuq is dying a slow painful death. Nanuq is drowning. Although he doesn’t sing he is a canary for us all.

Climate change and southern industrial toxins affect the fragile ecosystem of the Arctic first. The Inuit claimed in 2003,”Global warming is killing us too, say Inuit .”This is why Sheila Watt-Cloutier laid a law suit against the administration of the United States of America. Now the handful of Job-like Inuit who managed to survive the seal hunt fiasco of the 1980s and are still able hunt polar bear, will have yet another barrier put between them and the ecosystem they managed and protected for millennia. When I see Baroque art and read of the Enlightenment, I think Hudson’s Bay and the whalers in the north. It wasn’t the Inuit who caused the mighty leviathan to become endangered. Just how enlightened are we, the great grandchildren of the settlers today? Who is taking care of our Other grandparents?

Since the first wave of Inuit activists flooded the Canadian research landscape fueled by their frustrations with academic Fawlty Towers they morphed intergenerational keen observation of details, habits of memory, oral traditions and determination with astute use of artefacts and archives to produce focused and forceful research. When Sheila Watt-Cloutier representing the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC) was acknowledged with two awards in one year for work done to protect the environment, I wondered how many cheered her on.

I don’t cheer so much anymore. I am too overwhelmed, too hopeless to speak. I myself feel toxic, perhaps another pollutant from the south — my name is despair. I don’t want to dampen the enthusiasm of those activists who still have courage to continue. For myself, I feel like the last light of the whale-oil-lit kudlik is Flicktering and there is a blizzard outside.

Footnotes:

From wikipedia entry Sheila Watt-Cloutier

In 2002, Watt-Cloutier was elected[1][4] International Chair of ICC, a position she would hold until 2006[1]. Most recently, her work has emphasized the human face of the impacts of global climate change in the Arctic. In addition to maintaining an active speaking and media outreach schedule, she has launched the world’s first international legal action on climate change. On December 7, 2005, based on the findings of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, which projects that Inuit hunting culture may not survive the loss of sea ice and other changes projected over the coming decades, she filed a petition, along with 62 Inuit Hunters and Elders from communities across Canada and Alaska, to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, alleging that unchecked emissions of greenhouse gases from the United States have violated Inuit cultural and environmental human rights as guaranteed by the 1948 American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.[5]

Digitage elements:

Caspar David Friedrich’s (1824) The Sea of Ice
Tujjaat Resolution Island, abandoned, DEW line station DINA Northern Contaminated Sites Program (CSP) web site
My photo of ice floes in Charlottetown harbour, March 2000
A section of my acrylic painting entitled Nukara (2000)

Selected Bibliography

Eilperin, Juliet. (2006). “”U.S. Wants Polar Bears Listed as Threatened.” Washington Post Staff Writer. Wednesday, December 27, 2006; Page A01

Gertz, Emily. 2005. The Snow Must Go On. Inuit fight climate change with human-rights claim against U.S. Grist: Environmental News and Commentary. 26 Jul 2005.

The Guardian. 2003. “”Inuit to launch human rights case against the Bush Administration.”

DEW line contaminated sites in Nunavut.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,1104241,00….

http://www.grist.org/news/maindish/2005/07/26/gertz-inuit/index….

This will be updated from EndNote. If you require a specific reference please leave a comment on this page.

Creative Commons Canadian Copyright 2.5 BY-NC-SA.

Christmas Char on First Air

Youth and suicide

We both arrived early at the airport. I had only met P briefly before. She and her husband were well-known and liked. When I ate my meals at the Frobisher Inn they would often be there. He would come over to greet people including myself.

So there we were in the hustle and bustle of a small airport terminal in the middle of a not so typical Christmas conversation.

They have a twenty year old adopted child who had d… when he was young. This left this child with some weaknesses that P likens to Foetal Alcohol Syndrome. This child had a very difficult time during his teen years in High School in Iqaluit. At one point he attempted suicide by overdosing. Fortunately he was saved but this has shaken P. P wondered what more they could have done!

When P was called into P’s son’s school for a crisis situation, P was told by one of the staff that they were dealing with about five crises concurrently. They were understaffed and the crises strained the already overworked staff.

Our conversation grew out of my expressions of strong feelings of being shaken by the multiple youth suicides around me. I commented that the elders could perhaps be available for consultations with the youth but also with anyone in the community who needs their listening ears and their lifetimes of wisdom born of experience. P cautioned that the elders were not perhaps the most well equipped to deal with youth issues. (P reminded my there were fiascos resulting from well intentioned elders offering unsound advice to women suffering from spousal abuse.) P was concerned that the elders were out of touch with contemporary issues. We both agreed however that Iqaluit was under serviced in terms of dealing with youth in crisis. There was really nowhere for troubled youth to turn. She suggested that maybe the new youth centre could have a 24 hour counseling service where youth could turn for help.

Anti-poverty meeting at the NAC

Thoughts after an anti poverty meeting at NAC

“I have not been here for a long time. It seems like what I have seen is more like a blink than an observation. In this room we have people who have more knowledge than I have about poverty in Nunavut. But there are images I cannot shake. Now I recognize that these are rumors not necessarily facts. In the many conversations, in class with my students, the nursing students and others, in which I have taken part over the last few months, I have been presented with images that I cannot shake. I have not had these images of poverty since I lived in the third world, in Pointe Noire, Congo in the 1980’s. Then I lived in a Congolese neighbourhood where it was typical for people to live on one meal a day. I have not heard of that in Canada until I came here to the North. Even in my travels to other First Nations communities, I have not heard this described in this way. Perhaps I wasn’t listening. I have images in my head now of empty cupboards and fridges. I have heard the contents described: a jar of mayonnaise, a bottle of Ketchup, salt and pepper. No food. I have heard rumours that a young person who committed suicide may have been hungry. I have heard rumours that the homeless shelter only provides coffee and tea in the evening. The homeless do not always have an evening meal. Sometimes hunters provide this. Sometimes others do. I have heard rumours that the Soup Kitchen is no longer operational. This means that there is no place in Iqaluit where the homeless can be sure of a meal.

Recently I had a very minor incident which brought me to the RCMP. I was enquiring whether a young man was potentially dangerous and if I should have concerns for my safety. When I learned of the reality of this young man’s life, there seemed to be something very wrong with the picture. The RCMP officer explained to me that this person was homeless. On the coldest nights the young man who is ill, not a criminal, would be put into a cell so he would not freeze to death. Many nights he slept in the foyer of the RCMP building.1 I admit that there are aspects of this story that I do not know. But there is still something very wrong with the picture.

It is not surprising that southern Canada would be concerned with the housing crises in the North. I may have the statistics wrong, but it is my understanding that in the north 25% of the population share a room, whereas in the rest of Canada the figure is 2%. With all of the research available today that reveals links between overcrowding and violence it is not surprising that this is a concern. It ties in to so many problems in the North. Even in terms of the education crises. How can children study when they are living in such overcrowded conditions?”

Maureen Doherty keeps her cool and explains things articulately. She appears to be speaking from experience. She has lived in the smaller hamlets. After I spoke with my face getting increasingly red, she spoke with icy cool tones. From her experience in the hamlets there is an unofficial way of dealing with homelessness and hunger. People help each other. She painted a rosy picture of community in which no one fell through the cracks. Seeing double. My name is quoted but the words are not mine. They are hers. I am uncomfortable when she speaks. I recognize what is happening. It is on this note that the meeting has really ended regardless of what will be said afterwards. Has she found the right words to sanitize my images, to place them into a narrow, unique context that is not wide spread? Has she found the words to say what everyone really wants to hear? Things aren’t so bad. These are growing pains.

In the back of my mind, I recall the admonitions of the United Nations, criticizing Canada for the way in which the poor among us are treated.

Icelandic visitors

Yesterday when David Audlakiak was here, he asked Ari about his home Iceland but he was really asking about Greenland. David feels that since Greenland has had homerule for twenty years it has made progress to resolving problems that could help Inuit here. Ari agreed. He said that for problems like alcoholism, the Greenlanders do not focus on the older people. They focus on the young. In the earliest years children are taught about the social and physical harm alcohol causes. David was very interested. He thought that the municipal representatives here should be travelling to Greenland to learn from them. Ari suggested that he write to his MLA’s and encourage them to go.

As David Audlakiak came into the dining room and looked around at the brightly lit rooms and the tastefully decorated furnishings, he commented on how much the place had changed.  He had been in the House many years ago.

I invited him to sit in the living room. As he sat down and looked around he commented with humour, “No wonder we have problems! We have seven churches and a Road to Nowhere!”

Ari and I listened as he spoke from his heart about his concerns for his people. He felt that these churches, the social workers, those from the south, all brought solutions for the south. Their solutions didn’t work here. They would try but after about a year, they realized it wouldn’t work. He longed for solutions that started from here. He recognised that the elders have been intimidated into silence. He feels they have been the object of elder abuse, beaten by family members too drunk to know what they are doing. The elders have been told too often that their knowledge is of no use today. David Audlakiak doesn’t believe that. David Audlakiak  was there at the NAC Interviewing the Elders week. He remembered going out camping with his father. His father had enough legends to last a two week hunting trip.

At one point he looked around the room again as if he were seeing something in it for the first time. “This place is good for our young people. They should be coming here. Our young people should know about this place. This place is free of violence.”

Modern myths

But I do not want my inaction to prevent me from sleeping. Once the story is handed to me, I have a choice. I can keep the stories and the images safely guarded inside my own mind, so it makes no one uncomfortable. But in so doing I am part of maintaining the status quo. Or I can say, “I heard this story. Someone showed me this picture. Do you think it reflects the truth?”

If from one group of people I am hearing that it doesn’t, that the victims of poverty are to blame for their own poverty, red warning lights go on in my head. This is a neoliberal message that has been carefully massaged so it begins to sound quite reasonable. It is part of the discourse all around me here in the predominantly white, middle classes. It is also the message of the mobile sociologists, the taxi drivers. Blame the poor. Do not waste your pity on them. It is their own fault. They choose to drink, to take drugs, to have babies too early, to drop out of school.

Another myth I hear, is that the Inuit way of life will inevitably be subsumed by the western, modern, capitalist world. A corollary is that the western way of living is an improvement on the charming, romantic but outdated way of life of the Inuit. In other words much of what is written in the Nunavut land claims will be rationally side swiped by the rhetoric of the rationalist.