Canadian Arctic Polar Bear Migration
Day 1 Arviat (1D)
Arrive at any time and transfer to the hotel with a short orientation tour of the town. Welcome meeting at the hotel with a cultural presentation by Arviat Qaggiqiit- youth and adults showcasing their skills in drum dancing, throat singing and other musical instruments and techniques. Enjoy a welcome dinner including traditional foods. When you first arrive to Arviat, you will most likely be overwhelmed by the simplicity, isolation, and bitter cold that accompany small-town Arctic living. It is important to discard any preconceptions and take time to acquaint yourself with the 'Inuit way'. For example most Arviamiut (the people of Arviat) still spend considerable time harvesting their food. You will see ample evidence around town of this subsistence lifestyle and hunting activity. Immerse yourself in the culture and have fun sharing language. Arviamiut are found predominately communicating in Inuktitut, but most are also conversant in English. Arviat (place of the bowhead whales) was previously known as Eskimo Point, and renamed in June, 1989. The southern most community on mainland Nunavut, Arviat is on the western shores of the Hudson Bay, in the Kivalliq region of Nunavut, two hundred miles north of Churchill, Manitoba. The name Arviat is derived from the Inuktituk word “arviq” and means “Bowhead Whale”. The population of Arviat is around 2600, of which 95% are Inuit. The history of the community begins around the early 1920’s with the establishment of the Hudson’s Bay Co. outpost, and then followed by the Roman Catholic Mission(1924) and the Anglican mission(1929). An RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) post was established in 1936. With the opening of the airstrip in the 1950's, a flood of prospectors and surveyors arrived and began mapping the territory, this unfortunately led to epidemics which spread throughout the area. In addition, in 1959, the caribou migration changed, leading to starvation which forced the surviving Inuit living inland to be relocated to various settlements including Eskimo Point. Arviat is the centre of a diverse ecosystem of rivers and coastline offering glimpses of: polar bear migrations (seasonal), migratory bird nesting areas, pods of beluga whales (seasonal in the summer), migrating caribou, Arctic foxes, and Arctic plant life.
Day 2 Arviat (1B,1L,1D)
Embark on our polar bear viewing excursion with our local Inuit guide. Travel out onto the remote arctic tundra to heated cabins/tents protected by a bear fence. From here watch and learn about the plight of the bears, the environment and natural history of the area. We then continue on into the community including a stop at Mark and Angie Eetuk’s home. These 2 artists tell some fascinating stories about Padlei Post and the history of their family. A visit to their home is like going into a small museum/art gallery for stories, tea and bannock. The final stop on the community tour will be the Kiluk Sewing Centre where guests can watch local ladies making of sealskin products and browse through the gift shop. Arviat’s surrounding landscape is flat tundra with many small lakes and ponds. The tundra vegetation consists mostly of low-lying willow bushes, but in the summer, the land is a burst of colour with tiny flowers, lichens, and mosses. This prairie-like land is treeless, with occasional sand and gravel ridges called eskers. 90 kilometers southwest of Arviat is the tree-line. In the warmer seasons (July-October) wetlands popular with nesting waterfowl are created by melting snow. Although, the permafrost leads to quite marshy ground in places, with limited growth of vegetation, the conditions are ideal for berry picking. There are several major rivers within reach of Arviat, such as the McConnell River, and Maguse River, where many local people spend time fishing and hunting, or just enjoying their cabins. Each evening you will be able to attend and participate in any community events that may be taking place (dances, movie nights, bingo etc) or you can select a local history film on the area to watch from our small library of films.
Day 3 Arviat (1B,1L,1D)
Enjoy another morning of bear viewing before visiting a traditional Inuit caribou tupiq (tent) with elders in traditional caribou clothing who provide a presentation on the traditional ways, implements, games and tools of the Inuit. Option to go dog sledding (weather permitting). This evening enjoy a selection of historic films. The Arviat Historical Society has worked with local elders to record historic events, legends, the culture and heritage of the Pallirmiut who once lived at Arvia'juaq and Qikiqtaarjuk. The elders’ knowledge provides an understanding of the archaeological sites and the heritage of the people who lived there.
Day 4 Arviat (1B)
Option for one more visit to the Kiluk arts and crafts shop before transfer to the airport.