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Arctic Blast 2001

Education Curriculum & Lesson Plans

Online Classroom Dogsled Expedition


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"Weekly Topic & News" is posted here every Monday by 7 a.m. CST

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"The Weekly Topic and News" merges the expedition, educational goals, and the needs of teachers. It is the most important component of your online classroom expedition.

Start each week with an in-depth look at this page.

The topic of the week is emphasized with clearly presented, facts and information supplementing each unit of the curriculum package.

Information is also provided to help make real world connections, investigate personal values and discuss current issues.

Completing the circle, the weekly topic will also be highlighted from the Arctic Blast explorers.

Using the sights, sounds, and wilderness perspectives of the arctic facilitate meaningful and energized classes.

The Weekly Topic and News integrates the nationally accredited, K through 12, Nunavut curriculum package and the weekly reports from the expedition. This is where the adventure of collaborative learning really begins.

WEEK 2:
The Land and the People of Nunavut


Paul, Mille, Thomas, and myself had just spent a frantic hour loading the train. Dogs, sleds, food, and gear for a four month expedition were unloaded, lifted, loaded, and arranged in a box car. It proved to be a formidable task and each of us breathed a sigh of relief as we finally settled in for a relaxing eight hour train ride. Looking out the window as a seemingly endless wilderness passes by, I reflected on my past

For a kid from a small town in Wisconsin, arriving in Churchill would be the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. I have read, imagined, and wondered about the people and places of the arctic for most of my life.

Twenty below zero temperatures and a huge pile of gear in front of a rundown Churchill railway station force me to confront reality. Churchill is a very isolated place: the train and tracks stop here. On the other hand, I see cars, buildings, paved streets, and Christmas lights. The opposites I see, right now, will be even more pronounced as team Arctic Blast travels through Nunavut.

Imagine a person from Hawaii or Japan, Tibet or Holland, Kenya or Paraguay. Despite the infinite amount of differences, people around the world share seven basic needs. We all require a positive mental attitude, air, warmth, shelter, rest, water, and food in order to survive. Many of these are constant in all cultures. However, keeping warm for residents in desert regions doesn't pose much of a problem; whereas, people living in northern regions spend a considerable amount of time and effort staying warm. A major part of "who we are" is defined by where we live.

Now imagine living in a land that is more than three times the size of Texas. Next add about 28,000 people living in only twenty-eight villages. You heard correctly: 28,000 - that's means the population density of Nunavut is .01 person per kilometer. (Compare that figure with the population density of New York!) Throw in one of the world's harshest livable environments and you're only just starting to understand life in modern day Nunavut. To fully comprehend Inuit lifestyles, it is important to study the history, culture, and climate of this unique area.

Historically, the survival of the Inuit was directly linked to what resources were available from the land and water. Their relationship with the land was closely tied to the migration of caribou, seals, fish, and birds. Shelter was also provided by the land. Snow structures called igluit (igloos) were constructed from snow and helped the people endure the extreme cold. Caribou skin tents were used during summer. Change has come quickly to Nunavut and in the last century, white people have introduced the Inuit to canned and instant foods, snowmobiles, rifles, refrigerators, wooden houses, and institutionalized education. Trying to combine modern conveniences with ancient traditions is a difficult task, and because of this, the Inuit are loosing their connection with the land as well as their identity. They live between two worlds.

The Inuit have endured the often overbearing influences of whalers, explorers, traders, missionaries, and national government. Throughout all these massive changes, the Inuit have endured without compromising their basic values. The most important aspect of Inuit society is the family. Mutual respect was even extended towards an individual's mindset or "isuma." Isuma is an Inuit term that refers to the innermost thoughts and feelings of a person. Leadership is another Inuit value. Traditionally, leadership was flexible and based largely upon consensus. Difficult decisions were made by the elders whose knowledge, insight, and experience were indispensable. Finally, children are held in very high regard. The Inuit give large amounts of attention and affection toward their kids. The love of children is also seen in Inuit customary adoption practices. Children may be "adopted" by other families while still remaining connected to their own parents and siblings.

One major challenge of the new government will be to incorporate traditional values with new lifestyles. Since Nunavut is part of Canada, residents will have a public government ultimately determined by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However, the government of Nunavut will also be allowed to make decisions concerning land claims that other Canadian territories can not. Nunavut won't have any political parties, either. Instead, the legislature will pass regulations based on majority votes. Thirdly, the government of Nunavut will be decentralized with positions and offices being posted in Iqaluit, the capitol and ten other cities. The birth of a new territory is only the beginning for Nunavut. Balancing the past and the future, will be a major goal for the government of Nunavut.

The history of Nunavut, and more importantly, the Inuit is a complex story. The ancestors of the Inuit were a nomadic people who did not a simply exist as a isolated group. Their story involves great movements of populations, incredible achievements, and encounters with foreign cultures. In this sense, the history of the Inuit is not too unlike many other people of the world. Inuit history is also similar to many other indigenous cultures as well. Exploited and ignored, it is only recently that the Inuit have gained their own voice.

To put things in perspective, listen to the words of John Amagoalik, "Thinking back to my childhood and about all the things that have happened between then and now, it feels as though I have been watching a revolution in slow motion. Profound changes have taken place in our lives and our society. From the almost total isolation from the outside world of my early years in Resolute Bay in the High Arctic, to the computer space age when the world is at my fingertips, has been a journey of sorrow, joy, and adventure."


To learn more about the history of Nunavut and the role of nations in our world, COLLABORATE on the topic "Who Am I" in our collaboration zone -- Enter here!

Here are some "outside links" for further information and different perspectives...

The Nunavut Handbook - Inuit Culture
(http://www.arctictravel.com/chapters/incultpage.html)

"Building Nunavut" a Story of Self Government
(http://www.yukoncollege.yk.ca/~agraham/jull/buildnun.htm)

InfoCanada - Federal Government Websites
(http://www.info-canada.com/gov.html)

Writing in Inuktitut
(http://www.halfmoon.org/inuit.html)

"Find out about Nunavut" Government
(http://www.nunatour.nt.ca/govern.html)
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