Iqaluit seal celebration set for June 21, National Aboriginal Day
Hunters will share expertise at community events
Iqaluit residents will get a chance to celebrate a key part of Inuit culture on National Aboriginal Day, June 21, when the sixth annual Celebration of the Seal takes place at Sylvia Grinnell Park.
This year’s event will acknowledge two important people who have contributed to knowledge of seal-hunting, organizer Aaju Peter said.
“One will be sharing his catch with the community and the other was instrumental in teaching the skills and knowledge of working with seals,” she said.
Their names will be announced at the celebration, which takes place from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the park.
The main focus of the event, as in past years, “will be on the cutting-up of seal meat and eating seal together,” Peter said.
Demonstrations of Inuit games and a drum dance are also planned, and guests from hunters and trappers organizations and the Nunavut environment department will speak about Nunavut’s seal hunt.
“People are encouraged to wear sealskin outfits,” said Peter.
Those with the best traditional and contemporary outfits will have a chance to win prizes.
This year’s event will also feature seal meat prepared in a variety of ways, including seal sausages, seal burgers and seal jerky, in addition to more traditional preparations.
“We’ll be serving cooked seal in different ways, and people can taste them all,” Peter said.
The Government of Nunavut and First Air provided funding and support for the event, while Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. will donate the seals.
The seal celebration usually draws crowds of 300 to 500, but Peter said this year’s might draw fewer due to a National Aboriginal Day concert at Nakasuk School.
Iqaluit’s Francophone Centre will host a lead-in to June 21’s celebrations with a related seal-tasting event on the evening of June 20, in collaboration with Peter.
Photographer and seal hunter Yoaniss Menge of Quebec’s Magdalen Islands will display a collection of his photos portraying the seal hunt in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
“Yoaniss invited a butcher who specializes in seal meat preparation,” said Tommy Tremblay of the centre. “He’s also from Iles-de-la-Madeleine [Magdalen Islands], where traditional seal-hunting occurs too.”
The event will also feature raw seal meat, as well as seal meat prepared in less traditional forms, such as sausages.
Yoaniss came to Nunavut this month to hunt seal around Frobisher Bay and photograph the experience, said Tremblay. He hopes to bring some of that catch to the June 20 event.
“Hopefully, we’ll get some local seal meat as well, depending on the outcomes,” Tremblay laughed.
The Francophone Centre’s photo exhibit and seal-tasting event, organized by Menge and Peter, takes place June 20 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
A bus will run to the Sylvia Grinnell Park every half hour, starting at 5:30 p.m. from the following pick-up points: Abe Okpik Hall, Middle School, Apex Quick Stop, Road to Nowhere entrance, near house 440 (Happy Valley), Tammaativik boarding home, Arctic Ventures, Nakasuk Elementary School parking lot and the Parnaivik building.