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Arctic Blast 2001

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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.

Inuit Food

Last Thanksgiving, I was living in a tent in northern Wisconsin. I hadn't slept in a "normal" bed in over six months. All my meals were prepared on a fire and a small camp stove. My life consisted of working three jobs: substitute teaching, logging, and a maintenance position. Faced with the unfortunate circumstance of having to spend a holiday alone, I focused my attention on the little things that connect me with my family, and ironically enough, millions of other Americans. I went to the grocery store.

Bayfield, Wisconsin has a population of around 800 people. A town that size can hardly support a warehouse style grocery store. Instead, a small locally owned store provides basic staples. I am forced to choose each item carefully. Despite my strong (and normal) craving for pasta, I managed to curb my Italian desires in lieu of the nature of the holiday. Red potatoes instead of russets - I wasn't going to mash them. Tradition calls for turkey, but I can not physically eat the whole huge thing by myself. Chicken had to suffice. "Close enough," I said out loud. Startled, an old lady at the end of the isle looked warily in my direction. Next, its vegetables. A younger Eric might have decided against veggies, but I have grown into an affinity for most green plants, and today, snap peas seem especially savory. I grabbed a large bag. Stuffing was last on my list. I factored convenience and opted for Stove Top.

Thanksgiving is a major festival in America, and it is widely accepted that its origins are based in colonial New England. After landing in the Americas in 1620, the pilgrims struggled through a harsh winter where 46 of 102 people died. Those that remained planted, collected, and harvested so many crops that a "Thanksgiving" was declared. The feast was to honor those who had died, the Indians who had helped the survivors, and the bountiful harvest they now had. Thanksgiving is now celebrated by most Americans.

The concept of a thanksgiving type feast is one of the oldest festivals celebrated. Many cultures throughout history have feasted in celebration. For example, the harvest festival of the Jews, Sukkoth, dates back 2,000 years. The ancient Greeks, Chinese, and Romans all gave feasts of “thanks” to mark favorable events. Historical accounts also show ancient tribes who performed elaborate feasts and made offerings to appease gods and goddesses. These ceremonies served as the base of today’s Thanksgiving holiday. Despite the many differences it is easy to see the role food plays in every culture.

Food is also the tie that binds everything in the Inuit culture. Historically, the Inuit spent most of their time following, hunting, or processing food. Therefore, many of their customs, beliefs, and social structure revolved around food. The Inuit diet was focused on meat and blubber. Surviving the cold arctic conditions meant having a large supply of both (especially the blubber.) Seals, walrus, whales, fish, polar bears, and caribou were the main "staples."

Because food sources were often scarce, the Inuit relied on each other to meet their nutritional requirements. In winter, a dozen or more families congregated in a small community and each morning the men would set out to harpoon seals or catch fish. During these difficult times, food was always shared. The health of the whole community required this. Inside each igloo, another tradition existed. The father would spear a piece of meat with his knife, cut a chunk off for himself, then pass the knife and meat around to the other members of the family. Aalu, misiraq, and nirukkag are three different types of sauces that were used to add flavor.

It is also important for the Inuit to follow the traditions of the ancestors during present day feasts. For example, one particular feast is called alupajaq which is a type of feast associated with eating a seal. First, the men cut up the animal in a specific way. The women stand together in another area and converse with the men. They tell stories and talk about the seal as well as the fact of being blessed with so much food.

The meat is then passed from the men to the women. The choice parts of the seal are for the women only. Two women are responsible for cutting up pieces of the first pieces, the upper flippers. It is considered rude to leave anyone out. Next, the heart is cut up in small slivers and passed around, followed by the liver. The upper spine is then passed to the women while the men take the lower half. The ribs are cut into equal parts, with the women taking the front of the ribs and the men eating from the back ribs.

Guests are careful not to eat up every part of the seal. They must leave some for their kind hosts, unless they are urged to take some home. Some guests leave as soon as they have eaten, even before washing up. They feel the must not take up too much space and overstay their welcome. Appreciation is expressed more than once before leaving. The remaining guests help clean up everything (www.arctictravel.com).

Feasts are a very important aspect to Inuit society. They believe that sharing food is a vital part of their culture and acts as a link to the ways of the past. The Inuit feel that food makes friends out of strangers. "When we eat together, we feel more harmonious. And food doubles in volumes," states a Nunavut reference.

My own Thanksgiving, an Inuit seal feast, a medieval celebration honoring the "four humors..." Regardless of race, creed, color, or time period, giving feasts and honoring our food has always been a major aspect of our lives.Food is the tied that binds everything in the Inuit culture.

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