The Fan Hitch   Volume 18, Number 4, September 2016

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

From the Editor

Passage - Siu-Ling Han

Passage - Benson E. Ginsburg

Building & Testing Astrup's Dog Sled

The Arctic Nomads Project

Zacharias Kunuk’s Latest Film

The Chinook Project’s 2016 Wellness Clinics in Canada’s North

Canadian Inuit Dogs I have owned, raised and trained: a photo essay; Part 4

Book Review: Padlei Diary

Index: Volume 18, The Fan Hitch

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

Defining the Inuit Dog

Talk to The Fan Hitch

The Fan Hitch home page

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Editor: Sue Hamilton
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An Extraordinary Life Well Lived

                                                                         photo: Madeleine Cole

Siu-Ling Han
January 22, 1963 – August 29, 2016

prepared by Sue Hamilton

Keeping and running Inuit Dogs was a big part of Siu-Ling’s life….and she was very good at it, having embarked on demanding journeys behind her fine team. She was devoted to their care and well-being, flying them down when necessary to Ottawa from her home in Iqaluit, Nunavut for veterinary treatment. She would also fly entire litters to her parents’ home to give the pups even more experience and intensive socialization and then take them back to their arctic homeland. 
“S-L” was a renowned Inuit Dog team owner, but she was much more than that.

Loathe to draw attention to herself (politely declining whenever asked to contribute an article to The Fan Hitch), she was humble, philosophical and pragmatic; empathetic, enthusiastic and tireless; creative and talented; generous, loving, adventurous and courageous, yes…very, very courageous. To quote Abraham Lincoln, “In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.”

Siu-Ling’s early career in the 1990s involved projects for the Northern Contaminants Program where she worked on the drafting of international protocols for POPs (Persistent Organic Pollutants). She was on the Management Committee of the NCP where she worked with Bill Carpenter (Canadian Eskimo Dog Research Foundation, 1975-1986).

In March 1990 or 1991, seeking a “real northern” experience in temperatures as low as -40 to -50C (-40 to -58F), Siu-Ling was part of a team studying contaminants, drilling for 200 year-old hydrocarbon deposits on the Agassiz Ice Cap on Ellesmere Island. This was at a camp established by Dr. ‘Fritz’ Koerner. Between 1968-1969 Dr. Koerner, Allan Gill, Dr. Ken Hedges and forty Inuit Dogs led by Sir Wally Herbert made a 16 month journey across 3,620 miles (5826 km) of sea ice from Alaska to Svalbard via the North Pole on an expedition known as the British Trans-Arctic Expedition (BTAE).

                                                                           photo: Ed Maruyama

From her obituary:
In 1998 Siu-ling moved to Iqaluit to work for the wildlife research program for the Government of the Northwest Territories and later for the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) with the Government of Canada. She quickly earned the respect of scientists and Inuit hunters alike. When asked her secret for forging such strong working relationships, she simply replied, “Be kind.”
In Siu-Ling’s position with Northern Region of the (CWS) she made an enormous impact. Bruce MacDonald, her boss, colleague and friend said of her:
I had the extreme pleasure of working with Siu-Ling for the past thirteen-plus years at CWS.  She left a lasting impression on wildlife management and Canada’s North where her fingerprints and ideals are all over what CWS does there: 

1) She was instrumental in helping CWS sign an Inuit Impact Benefit Agreement, which was the first time such an agreement was signed between CWS and the Inuit of Nunavut. That agreement allows us to co-manage our Nunavut protected areas with Inuit.  It ensures that Inuit have a direct role in the day-to-day management of those protected areas;

2) She was front and centre in the creation of a Species at Risk 101 course that was developed to inform Nunavummiut about the new federal Species at Risk Act and how it may affect them.  This was the first time, to my knowledge, that a plain language training program was designed and delivered to the various Inuit organizations across Nunavut;

3) She was the primary push to have all Nunavut wildlife management authorities and communities around the same table from day one to help us develop a Recovery Strategy for the endangered Peary caribou.  The idea of assembling such a diverse group at the start of a process, versus after CWS had already drafted a recovery strategy, was very new for us.
Siu-Ling never tired of her efforts to ensure that the North, including its people and its wildlife, were always well represented at every opportunity. [She left a] lasting impact on wildlife management in Canada’s North.  She was a very special person. 
Siila Watt-Cloutier, Inuk Activist, former chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, nominee for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize and friend visited with Siu-Ling in her final weeks:
Nakurmiik Siu-Ling - not only in how you worked and lived in our Inuit world - so respectfully - so inclusively but in WHO you have been and what you brought to us all during your time in the Arctic. The people of Nunavut, no doubt will hold you in their hearts forever. Your embracement of our world, especially our ice with your dogs is something I will always connect your spirit with. I send you off on your continued journey with gratitude and love. Journey on well dear friend. Much love - Nallgivagit.  
Siu-Ling’s mother, Kim Han, wrote:
When news of her imminent demise spread like wildfire after she came home from the hospital, July 8, we were inundated with more than 200 visits from family, friends and colleagues who came from all over Canada, and even the U.S. and Europe to visit her. Siu-Ling was excited and happy to see each and every one of them. She said, “This is so exciting! It’s fun to see friends I haven’t seen in a long time. It’s almost like getting ready for a wedding … except that this is not a wedding.”

A couple of friends brought their musical instruments with them when they came for a long weekend, early August. Our house was filled with music, songs, laughter and tears. Siu-Ling even managed to sing and play a couple of her own compositions which brought tears to many an eye. She said, “I know I’m dying, but I am having a great summer.”  Siu-ey said she’d been to places many could only dream of, done things she always wanted to do, and created memories with friends and family that nobody could take away. She was calm and composed, and said the only regret she had about the life she had lived was when she told me, with tears in her eyes, that she would not be able to look after Bing [her Dad] and me in our old age, and that we had to look after her instead. It has broken our hearts to let her go, but she was at peace with herself. We have to agree that she has accomplished more at her age than many have in a lifetime.

Now she has left us with the beautiful music and songs she wrote that will always be a comfort to many of us. We had no idea she ever composed music and wrote such beautiful songs. We have to thank Rob Aube for convincing her to share her music and poetry with others. We also have to thank her many friends who supported Rob, and Pierre Lecomte, to create the album which is a legacy of her wisdom, insight, love and kindness. 
From the website, created by her friends:
Very few people — including family and friends — were aware of Siu-ling’s musical talent. When re-diagnosed with ovarian cancer (after beating the odds for more than a decade), Siu-ling reluctantly heeded the call of a close musician friend who insisted that these songs be shared outside of her living room. Rough tracks were recorded in Iqaluit. When Siu-ling’s health suddenly took a turn for the worse, the community came together, and used these rough cuts to produce an album. The result, “To Those Who Would Show Kindness”, is a deeply raw and personal album that explores love, pain, disappointment, friendship and most of all, the simple joy of living in the present. Set in the stark yet beautiful landscape of the Canadian Arctic, Siu-ling’s songs echo the darkness and light of the human condition and what it means to be alive. As per Siu-Ling’s wishes, all proceeds from this album are being donated to projects in support of mental health initiatives for Nunavut youth.

                                            image: Ron Wassink

Listen to Siu-Ling and hear her sing on this SoundCloud interview.

You can learn more about Siu-ling through her songs, and honor her memory here.

Instead of a Memorial or “Celebration of Life” party, Siu-Ling wanted to have an “After Party” where friends and family got together to reconnect and create new memories. More than 170 people came from far and wide to attend the first one on September 5th. A second one is planned in Iqaluit in the Spring 2017, around that community’s Toonik Tyme festivities.

                                                         photo: Debbie McAllister

“There are not enough words to thank everyone who has made my life so full, so joyful, so rich with laughter and adventure. I wish for you courage and strength, joy in the present, love in the past, present and future. Show kindness, do no harm, find the good.”

Ed.: I wish to extend heartfelt gratitude to all the grieving loved ones, friends and colleagues for their generous assistance at this difficult time in the preparation of this tribute.
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