A taste of the Arctic

Roasted ragout of seal is delicious. As is cured muskox strip loin and char tartar. My favorite, though, was the smoked goose breast which was served with Qisitutauyaq (ground juniper) sauce.
The sold-out crowd had to jockey for “A Taste of the Arctic” at Ottawa’s National Gallery this week, in only the second year the national Inuit organization, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, celebrated Inuit culture and raised funds to save its language.

(c) Paulette Roberge/WWF-Canada
It was recipe for success: innovative food prepared by Ottawa caterers Tulips & Maple; 400+ politicians, diplomats, Indigenous  leaders and media schmoozing under the cathedral-like spires of the  National Gallery’s Great Hall; steaming jugs of herbal teas from Avataq and Northern Delights; serious messages from ITK’s president Mary Simon and former Governor-General Michaelle Jean about the importance of language and education balanced with the levity of Artcirq clowns and even some ABBA songs by Elisapie Issaac, which had the crowds swaying.
(c) Paulette Roberge/WWF-Canada
Ms. Simon, pointing to her encased foot and crutches, prompted laughter from the crowd (which included Laureen Harper and Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq who also serves as Regional Minister for the North) when she said it was the result of slipping on ice and NOT kicking her partner. Ms. Jean was equally engaging in her address, citing the importance of receiving “gifts from the heart” in a clear reference to her widely-publicized intake of seal heart in the Arctic last year.  Ms. Jean has clearly won the hearts of Inuit people, as she was virtually ambushed later in the evening.  Karis Gruben was thrilled to meet UNESCO’s Special Envoy to Haiti who had danced with her uncle in Inuvik. Karis aspires to open Inuvik’s only  florist shop when she completes her Algonquin College course.
The energy in the room likely resulted from the diversity of the crowd. Cards were exchanged. Here lies the potential for a sustainable future for the Arctic people and species.
(c) Paulette Roberge/WWF-Canada
Former Governor-General Michaelle Jean with Paulette Roberge (c) WWF-Canada
Those who attended the inaugural celebration last year were impressed that swelling numbers had to force ITK to upgrade from the Gallery’s cafeteria to the much grander Great Hall. It was a fitting 40th anniversary celebration for the national voice of Canada’s Inuit.  ITK took its new name – meaning “Inuit are united in Canada” – in 2001 to show it represented all Inuit across the vast Canadian Arctic – the region they call Inuit Nunangat.