Respected Nunavut huntress helped catch Igloolik’s latest bowhead
“Oh yeah, she’s a good hunter. She catches more seal and caribou than me”
Lucy Kublu-Qattalik sees nothing unusual about being the only huntress to have joined about 20 men on Igloolik’s recent successful bowhead whale hunt.
Like many others in Inuit Nunangat, Kublu-Qattalik, 42, spent a lot of time as a kid with her family camping out on the land.
“When I was younger, out on the land with my father, I’d follow him around and ask him what he needs or what needs to be done — that’s how I learned to support hunters,” Kublu-Qattalik said from her home in Igloolik recently.
But Kublu-Qattalik excelled beyond supporting hunters, and eventually she became a skilled huntress herself.
By age 10, she learned to shoot a gun. At 12, she shot her first caribou.
“That felt so great. I remember it was a really nice day out too.”
Kublu-Qattalik’s hunting knowledge and skills eventually landed her the job of secretary-treasurer with the Igloolik Hunters and Trappers Organization, where she helped the community organize the recent bowhead whale hunt.
During that hunt, Kublu-Qattalik said she provided support for hunters from one of the six boats by making sure ropes stayed untangled, boiling water for hot drinks and keeping an eye out for whales.
And, while Kublu-Qattalik said this was her first bowhead whale hunt, she has harpooned seals and narwhal on previous hunts.
But for some of her fellow community members, the idea of a woman hunter doesn’t sit well, Kublu-Qattalik said.
“Most people are supportive. But sometimes in the community men ask how come there’s a woman hunting. I don’t say anything, but my colleagues support me, so they are my voice.”
Traditionally, Inuit women took care of the children and the camp while men went hunting.
But when Kublu-Qattalik met her future husband about 25 years ago, she learned he had seven sisters and no brothers to help him hunt.
“I knew he needed help, so I’m always helping with hunting. I go out with him even if it’s winter time.”
Now, Kublu-Qattalik has five children and three grandchildren.
“I’m out there harvesting for our family with my husband. It feeds our family, his side and my side, and our children. It makes me feel really happy that they need me to support them like that.”
Participating in a community-wide hunt is important because it affects the whole community, she added.
Kublu-Qattalik’s husband, George Qattalik, said he also participated in the recent bowhead whale hunt, but from a different boat than his wife.
Qattalik said he couldn’t be more proud of his huntress wife.
“Oh yeah, she’s a good hunter. She catches more seal and caribou than me,” he said, adding that his wife is a member of the Canadian Rangers.
But for Kublu-Qattalik, she said it doesn’t matter if she’s hunting or supporting other hunters, she just loves being out on the land.
“It’s important for women to learn how to hunt too. Everyone should be participating,” she said.