Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut December 08, 2016 - 4:00 pm

Nunavut man offers free caribou to elders

"That makes my Christmas"

Arviat hunter Johnny Mamgark posted this offer of free caribou on Facebook Dec. 6, generating hundreds of responses.
Arviat hunter Johnny Mamgark posted this offer of free caribou on Facebook Dec. 6, generating hundreds of responses.

Santa Claus came early to some lucky elders in Nunavut’s Baffin region—Joannie and Annie Ikkidluak of Kimmirut, Simeonie Qaunirq of Iqaluit and Elaiya Mangitak of Cape Dorset.

And Santa brought them caribou meat.

That’s thanks to Arviat hunter Johnny Mamgark, who offered gifts of caribou meat to three elders in a giveaway draw that he posted on the Iqaluit swap and sell page on Facebook.

Mamgark asked elders who wanted to be included in a Dec. 7 draw to post their names and photos on his original Facebook offer.

His Dec. 6 gesture generated nearly 700 photos and comments from Inuit around the Baffin region.

Mamgark also challenged other hunters in the Kivalliq region to give away caribou to elders in the Baffin region, where the caribou population is in trouble.

Recent survey numbers have shown Baffin Island caribou numbers have declined by 98 per cent, down to about 5,000 animals from previous highs of 235,000 recorded in 1991.

That decline prompted a moratorium on caribou harvesting on Baffin Island in 2014, followed by a modest quota of 250 bull caribou.

“I know we can do it… We’re the friendliest community in Nunavut,” Mamgark said on Facebook about the challenge to other Arviat hunters to help provide caribou to elders in the Baffin region.

Mamgark said he would also pay the freight on the caribou to the elders chosen in his giveaway.

While there is no caribou quota in the Kivalliq region, where Mamgark lives, and the Qamanirjuaq herd is not in danger, there’s concern about the herd’s health and the impact of harvesting for other regions.

Last April the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board warned that the Qamanirjuaq herd, which spans Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, northern Manitoba and northern Saskatchewan, is on the verge of dipping below sustainable harvesting levels.

The Qamanirjuaq herd’s population dropped to 264,000 in 2015, according to Government of Nunavut surveys, down from 348,000 in 2009, and from earlier estimates of 500,000.

And the location of the herd makes it the primary source of caribou meat for Kivalliq communities—and for online sales to other communities in Nunavut.

But some groups like the World Wildlife Fund-Canada have called for increased monitoring of online sales to track its impact—particularly in the Kivalliq—on the overall caribou harvest.

“I think the first step is to get a handle on what’s happening,” senior specialist, Arctic species, for WWF Canada, Brandon Laforest told Nunatsiaq News Dec. 6.
“We need harvest recording. We need to have a better idea of how many are being taken and compare that to the herd sizes and make sure that we’re operating at a sustainable level,” Laforest said.

For now, it’s easy to find a tuktu (caribou) with tunnuq (fat) for sale from the Kivalliq region on various swap and sell social media pages—usually for between $300 and $400.

There’s no law against a beneficiary of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement selling country food that they harvested legally. That’s included in the Inuit right to hunt without a licence.

It would only be illegal if a hunter did something like take the hindquarters only (the best part for steaks) and left the rest on the land, wasting the meat.

As for the health of the Qamanirjuaq herd, assistant deputy minister at Nunavut’s department of environment, Steve Pinksen, said it’s “tough” to say how healthy its numbers are.

“We have seen an increase in [online] sales in the past three or so years and it’s really been increasing since then,” Pinksen said Nov. 30.

But he said the [online] sales “is not the issue—it’s the overall harvest.”

Mamgark’s caribou giveaway saw hundreds of people thanking him on social media.

“Thank you for doing this to the elders. How nice of you to do this. This was a heart warming feeling. God bless you,” was one comment.

“Shows that there are good people out there. Thank you for being a good example to others. That makes my Christmas. Makes you want to do for others,” said another.

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