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The Fan Hitch, Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog, is published four times a year. It is available at no cost online at: http://thefanhitch.org.
The Fan Hitch welcomes your letters, stories, comments and suggestions. The editorial staff reserves the right to edit submissions used for publication.
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This site is dedicated to the Inuit Dog as well as related Inuit culture and traditions. It is also home to The Fan Hitch, Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog.
Romulus takes the quick way across a path. Photo: Hamilton
Are We There Yet?
by Mark Hamilton
Our winter season was a struggle. It seemed to start normally enough with daytime and overnight temperatures dropping back gradually as daylight hours became shorter. The only anomaly was that a lasting frost in the ground arrived a bit late. The ground was still not frozen when we got our first snow cover, which stayed, much to our surprise. There wasn't enough snow to be useful, but it remained as sort of the promise of more to come.
As we approached the end of the year more snow did in fact come. Then, early in January we started getting snow regularly, with a storm arriving every six to eight days. The frequency increased until we were having storms every three to four days. That required a lot of extra effort on our part as the depth of our snow pack quickly increased. In addition to clearing snow from the dogs’ pens, we eventually had to clear a path along all the six-foot (1.8 m) high fencing in the exercise areas. Our total snowfall for the season was just a few of inches short of six feet at the time and there was more than three feet of compacted snow everywhere in the exercise yard. The snow mass was firm to the point where not only could the dogs walk on it, we could as well in many places. The conditions rendered our now three-or-so-foot fences inadequate for safe and secure containment.
It was about the time we had created a safety zone adjacent to those fences when the snow on the roof of our house started turning into ice dams, and water began backing up under the shingles and leaking through our ceilings. We cleared the dams, but daytime temperatures were now warm enough to melt more snow each day and every night new ice dams formed. We considered ourselves lucky. The enormous weight of the snow pack began collapsing scores of roofs on businesses, homes and barns across our state.
Around the first week of March, our big melt-off began. In a five-day period we had two large rain events coupled with warm daytime and overnight temperatures. Warnings were posted in advance of the storms advising everyone to be prepared for heavy rainfall and localized flooding. No big surprise there, heavy rain plus water from a lot of melting snow combined with frozen ground does have a tendency to make streams and rivers surge well beyond their banks. We're safely distant from the streams and rivers that flooded, but those weather conditions often result in us having to deal with a wet basement and this time was no exception.
So, is the end in sight? Are we there yet? No, not really! Weather doesn't end. It's an on-going process. Weather develops patterns, those patterns transform into new patterns and then it changes with the seasons. Weather happens whether we take notice of it or not.
Similar to changing weather patterns are the efforts of people working to find a place for the Inuit Sled Dog in today's and tomorrow's world. They continue, they evolve and move forward. There have been some notable events in that journey, and no doubt there will be still more in the future. This is an ongoing process and something that will need to be passed along from this generation to the next.
Here are few recent events regarding the Inuit and the radical changes that have occurred to their traditional lifestyle and their dogs which quickly come to mind: the RCMP Review of Allegations Concerning Inuit Sled Dogs, the Final Report of the Honorable Jean-Jacques Croteau presented to Makivik Corporation Regarding the Allegations Concerning the Slaughter of Inuit Sled Dogs in Nunavik (1950-1970), the Qikiqtani Truth Commission's Final Report: Achieving Saimaqatigiigniq.
At this point some may be asking, "Are we there yet?"
That's certainly a legitimate question. It's also a question neither Sue nor I are in a position to answer. Our work, the work of The Fan Hitch, is primarily to report, to chronicle what has happened and is happening and to offer an opinion here and there. But we don't set the agenda, nor do we decide when something is completed. That responsibility falls to the people working with the dogs and living in the Arctic.
So please tell us, "Are we there yet?"