The Fan Hitch Volume 13, Number 3, June 2011

Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog
In This Issue....

Editorial: Know the Dog, the Land and the People

Fan Mail

Chinook Project Returns to Labrador

Canadian Animal Assistance Team Returns to Baker Lake

Ghosts of Dogs Past

A Conversation with
Charlotte DeWolff of Piksuk Media and
Jake Gearheard of the Ilisaqsivik Society

Qimmivut: the Ilisaqsivik Society’s Dog Team Workshop

Media Review: Of Ice and Men (book)

IMHO: Succession

Navigating This Site

Index of articles by subject

Index of back issues by volume number

Search The Fan Hitch

Articles to download and print

Ordering Ken MacRury's Thesis

Our comprehensive list of resources

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The Fan Hitch home page

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Editor: Sue Hamilton
Webmaster: Mark Hamilton
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                                                             Natural Resources Canada

Qimmivut - Our Dogs

The Dog Team Workshop of the Ilisaqsivik Society of Clyde River, Nunavut, Canada

by Jake Gearheared

For four weeks at the end of February 2011, the Ilisaqsivik Society* organized a land-based cultural workshop and community hunt by dog team to Arviqtujuq and Majuallaruluk, traditional camps of historical and cultural importance to Kangiqtugaapingmiut - the people of Kanngiqtugaapik (Clyde River). Workshop participants included six mushers/instructors each with one or two youth apprentices, one musher/instructor/workshop coordinator and seven skidoo support drivers/instructors. Approximately 20 youth participated during the entire four weeks. Seven youth participants rotated through the workshop for one or two weeks at a time. Some mushers got new youth every week. Other mushers stayed with the same youth the whole time. The mushers, skidoo drivers and coordinators often changed over the course of the workshop, usually depending on the length of the workshop.

The purpose of the Qimmivut workshop is to provide an opportunity for participants to share cultural skills, knowledge and values. The workshop promotes mental, spiritual and physical well-being, and validates and transfers Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ) - the body of knowledge and unique cultural insights of Inuit into the workings of nature, humans and animals; closer to Inuit ways of thinking and being - associated with Inuit societal values, hunting, traveling, working with dogs, camping, and being on the land.

This is an annual workshop that Ilisaqsivik has been organizing for the past five years. The workshop allows youth and young adults to be out on the land with recognized hunters, dog team owners and Elders. The purpose of this trip is to reaffirm and teach IQ, as well as promote the development of mentoring relationships between Elders, adults and youth. Traveling by dog team provides an excellent opportunity to transfer IQ around practical navigation, travel, camping, tool making and harvesting skills, as well as social values related to principals that include:
  • Avatimik Kamattiarniq/Qanuqtuurniq - the concept of environmental stewardship/finding the balance;
  • Pijitsirarniq - the concept of serving;
  • Pilimmaksarniq - the passing on of knowledge and skills through observation, doing and practice;
  • Piliriqatigiingniq/Aajiiqatigiingniq - the concept of collaborative working relationships or working together for a common purpose/the Inuit way of decision-making, comparing views or taking counsel.

Checking the seal net.     photo: David Iqaqrialu

Fish and other country foods gathered during the trip are passed out to community members after the group returns. This trip is an excellent way to combine the promotion of healthy living and wellness with the promotion of cultural knowledge and activities.

Workshop time is planned each day of the trip. The group stays in cabins at Arviqtujuq and Majuallaruluk providing a space to meet in the evenings and talk. Workshop time also occurs outside, through group discussions on the land or ice and, most importantly, through direct, hands on experiences.
The following is a list of topics that were addressed during the workshop: 
  • Caring for and working with dogs, as well as the significance and history of dogs in Inuit culture and traditional livelihoods
·  Commands
·  Caring for and feeding dogs
·  History of dogs in our community
·  Social, economic, and cultural significance of dogs
·  How to make harnesses, leads, whips and backpacks
  • Safe winter travel and camping skills
  • Social Values
·  Relationship with the land
·  Relationship between oneself and social group
·  Value of hard work and team work
·  Respect for each other
·  Respect for oneself
  • Traditional Inuktitut words and phrases related to traveling and working with dogs, and other skills and social values addressed during the trip.
Hands-on workshops conducted while traveling are reinforced during the evening discussion times. For example, commands and caring for and feeding dogs are learned while actually traveling with, and feeding dogs. Similarly, winter travel and camping skills, Inuit social values, and traditional Inuktitut words and phrases are taught continuously using a hands-on approach and then reinforced during the evening meetings and group discussions.

Dog team instructors teach youth apprentices to feed their dogs off the chain.  Feeding in this manner allows the dogs to work out aggression and small conflicts and establish a strong hierarchy which helps promote better teamwork and avoid big fights in the future.
                                                photo:  Ilisaqsivik Society

*Incorporated in 1997, Ilisaqsivik Society is a non-profit, community-based Inuit organization in Clyde River, Nunavut, Canada dedicated to promoting community wellness in ways that maintain respect for traditional Inuit teachings and learning, and are accountable to the community. Ilisaqsivik offers a wide range of community-based programs that support the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs of all community residents from infants to Elders. For more information about Ilisaqsivik or the Qimmivut workshops please contact Jakob Gearheard, Executive Director, Ilisaqsivik Society/Ittaq Heritage and Research Centre, P.O. Box 150, Clyde River, NU X0A0E0 or
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