On February 23, 2017, Class 8 students from the Nelson Waldorf School arrived in Kugluktuk, Nunavut. Kugluktuk is a small Inuit community located at the mouth of the Coppermine River where it meets the Arctic Ocean. We were greeted with tremendous warmth and generosity upon arrival, welcomed with a homemade chili lunch and hand made fur mittens for every student made by some local elders in the community. The afternoon was spent getting to know their Kugluktuk “twins” playing table tennis in the school gym.
The following day every student was geared up with a mask to direct their breathing downward to prevent their goggles from fogging up, a balaclava, a helmet, and several layers of clothing, ensuring that there was no exposed skin. There were approximately six or seven snowmobiles then used to transport students and gear about 8 km out onto the frozen Arctic Ocean to build an igloo for the day. The students were pulled on a couple of sleds behind snowmobiles and the ride took about 30 minutes to one of the islands. We were out on the ice for seven hours, the ride back on the snowmobiles was probably the coldest we all had been on the whole trip. At one point the temperature was measured at -57 C with windchill!
The week was crammed with a variety of activities some of which included hand sewing with seal skin, making bannock, square dancing, traditional drum and dance, a sleep over at the school, Inuit games and skinning a couple of animals. The high school set up their own traps and had their own snowmobiles which was incorporated into the curriculum. During our stay, they caught a wolverine and an arctic fox which our students took part in skinning both. Not all participated in the skinning but it was a great experience for those that were interested.
One of the evenings a cultural event took place to welcome us into the community. The local youth square dancers performed, people came in cultural wear and there was traditional food to try such as raw moose. Everyone was extremely friendly, especially the small children that would run up and immediately ask your name.
It was incredible to see what a strong bond the students all made with each other through out the week. The final day was filled with emotions and the good byes were filled with many tears. On April 5th the students from Kugluktuk will be coming to Nelson to experience the mountains for a week. The insights and experience the students gained from this trip are beyond words and will stay with them for life. We are all looking forward to the visit here “down south” from our new northern friends!