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Passage - Siu-Ling Han
Passage - Benson E. Ginsburg
Building & Testing Astrup's Dog Sled
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Canadian Inuit Dogs I have owned, raised and trained: a photo essay; Part 4
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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: https://thefanhitch.org.
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An Extraordinary Life Well Lived
photo: Madeleine Cole
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 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: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.”
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:
Siu-Ling’s mother, Kim Han, wrote: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.
From the siu-ling.ca website, created by her friends: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.”
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
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.