Is Canada's future in the North?
January 19, 2014 4:54 AM   Subscribe

As part of a Globe and Mail series on the North exploring Canada's last frontier, writer Ian Brown and photojournalist Peter Power learn that the High Arctic, touted as Canada’s future, is like nothing any southerner expects. posted by jamincan (20 comments total) 58 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have anything profound to say about the first piece other than that I enjoyed it and it gave me a bit of a look into a part of the world and a cultural perspective I was pretty thoroughly un-aware of. Thanks.
posted by dubitable at 5:49 AM on January 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

The second link seems to be behind a G&M paywall. Alternate link?
posted by Kitteh at 6:26 AM on January 19, 2014

You should be able to open it in incognito mode or whatever your browser's equivalent is. At least that has worked for me in the past when I've run into their paywall.
posted by jamincan at 6:37 AM on January 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was able to read the second piece. It is amazing, thanks for posting this.
posted by efalk at 6:52 AM on January 19, 2014

“And the Inuit have lived here for what? Four thousand years?”

Not even close. Inuit haven't been in North America much longer than Europeans, only crossing over from Siberia to Alaska about 1000 years ago, and spreading eastward at a snail's pace. The Vikings beat them to Greenland by a good century or so.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:09 AM on January 19, 2014 [5 favorites]

It’s late November, the first day of the annual darkness, when the sun does not make it entirely above the horizon. Instead, it peeks over at noon, a semi-depressed Kilroy of the North, oozing pink and orange like a large, cold and, alas, inaccessible tropical drink.

Great second sentence! :-)
posted by the quidnunc kid at 7:10 AM on January 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

This is fantastic, highly recommended.
posted by empath at 7:19 AM on January 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

There have been waves of settlement in the arctic going back thousands of years. The Inuit are descended from the Thule culture (as Sys Rq indicates, about 1000 years old) but the Thule were preceded by the Dorset (and pre-Dorset) cultures which date back to ~500 BCE. It's a confusing & interesting history and there are unknowns (eg. extent of interaction between Dorset and Thule).

If interested, you might check out "Ancient Peoples of the Arctic" by Robert McGhee which is a good overview.

Can't wait to get back to the arctic this summer - the North is truly spectacular.
posted by parki at 7:41 AM on January 19, 2014 [16 favorites]

Excellent article, well worth the read.

The irony is that the ideals of the North’s new crowd are the same values moderates espoused a generation ago in southern Canada: stewardship of the environment, compassion for elders, a balanced approach to development, respect for wildlife, modesty and humility. “There is a Canadian value system"

Shame Harper seems intent on destroying the same value system.
posted by arcticseal at 8:59 AM on January 19, 2014 [6 favorites]

The strange thing is that the camp works as an air lock in both directions, both into the thicker atmosphere of the south, and also out of it. One afternoon up on the ore deposit, 100 feet above the camp, the wind is blowing 30 kilometres an hour. (It’s twice as cold as it was anywhere in the south during the recent “polar vortex.”) You can stand it for about three seconds. Then it feels as if rogue bacteria are eating your face alive. The sensation is unbearable. This isn’t a temperature at which you want to be surveying or taking notes or packing explosives or dialling a phone. Drill bits have been snapping in the cold. I mention to Jason Paterson, the project’s materials handling supervisor – a tough, funny guy from Kapuskasing, Ont. who has worked in mines all over the world – something Mr. Woodfine said: “If those generators went out, we’d have to leave in three hours. Or else we’d be dead.”

Mr. Paterson nods. “And the Inuit have lived here for what? Four thousand years?” He shakes his head. Many of the southerners who travel up every two weeks consider it a privilege to be working among the northern people, even if they don’t talk about it much.

Ian Brown meets the North. Fantastic.
posted by rhombus at 10:02 AM on January 19, 2014

I kept expecting to see "Advertising Feature" at the top of every page of yesterday's G&M. But no.
posted by scruss at 11:02 AM on January 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

In 1967, the great concert pianist and radio artist Glenn Gould produced an hour-long audio documentary on the North and its place in the psychological mythos of Canadians. It's a fascinating listen, in part because of his use of contrapuntal composing techniques to layer and mix different people talking about the North. Take a listen to The Idea of North!
posted by slappy_pinchbottom at 11:15 AM on January 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

The description of hunting muskox as "better than sex" seems quite weird, given the earlier description of them being docile cow-like things that just stand there waiting to get shot.
posted by Flunkie at 11:51 AM on January 19, 2014

Well, upon further reflection, it seems pretty weird in any case, but I mean especially given the earlier description.
posted by Flunkie at 11:52 AM on January 19, 2014

I spent seven summers and two winters in the NWT and loved (almost) every minute of it, although never fooled myself into thinking I'd never leave (hence, always a Southerner).

Ian Brown's piece rings perfectly true to me. That is, it really captured the feel of a slightly overwhelmed southerner, trying to make sense of the North. I also worked alongside many Dene and Inuit, and he kind of nails the character of the Northern First Nations. Tough, resourceful, often with pretty great senses of humour and a certain lack of taking Southern work ethics or general uptighteness any more seriously than they deserve.

Especially among the Inuit, it was pretty common that someone would decide they needed to "spend some time on the land". This could mean a few days or a few months (which added a bit of a wild card to certain meetings or appointments ).

"Is Tom around?"
"Naw, he went out on the land"
"You know when he'll be back?"

Imagine that: its January above the Arctic circle, it's -40 (without counting wind chill), there are two hours of daylight and you just jump on your snowmobile and head off alone for two, three months or whatever, until you happen to make it back.
posted by bumpkin at 11:55 AM on January 19, 2014 [16 favorites]

Wonderfully well-done and well presented.
Thanks, jamincan!
posted by islander at 12:52 PM on January 19, 2014

Flunkie: The description of hunting muskox as "better than sex" seems quite weird, given the earlier description of them being docile cow-like things that just stand there waiting to get shot.

According to my brother who has worked in the Arctic quite a bit, bull Muskox are dangerous nuisances who will follow you for long distances and attempt to charge if they've decided you're a threat. He said they always had trikes or quads they could use to escape from the Muskox, but they'd be a handful if you were on foot and unarmed.

Or maybe they're just very very tasty.
posted by sneebler at 1:18 PM on January 19, 2014

"For a trek or snowmobile ride of any length, I wear long underwear; Polartec pants; down-filled snow pants; a shirt; a massive seven-pound, knee-length Woods down parka; a balaclava; a stout wool hat; liner gloves, plus forearm-length synthetic-down-filled leather gauntlets; burly wool socks; boot liners; and a pair of knee-high, foam-lined Baffin snow boots tested to -40 C."

I'd never make it. Excellent article, thanks so much.
posted by faineant at 4:09 PM on January 19, 2014

Boy, I love Ian Brown's writing. Thanks for this post!
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:31 PM on January 20, 2014

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