Iqaluit boy, 9, kills first polar bear
Nine-year-old Levi Inookee is learning to hunt at the best possible time — when he’s young.
VALERIE G. CONNELL
The great hunter sits snuggled up with his dad, his eyes glued to the dancing images on the television screen.
“I want to finish watching the show,” said Levi Inookee, aged 9.
It’s hard to tell that Levi, a third-grader at Joamie School in Iqaluit, has just experienced a remarkable rite of passage.
Levi shot his first polar bear earlier this month.
The kill came after a two-day hunting trip outside of Iqaluit with his father, his grandfather and another relative.
“Inookee Adamie, his grandfather, has been teaching him for a long time,” said David Kownirk, Levi’s father.
The group left Iqaluit on snowmobiles and travelled to an outpost camp, where they spent the night. For Levi, it meant sleeping in a sleeping bag and getting up earlier than usual.
“It was cold,” Levi said.
In the morning they travelled overland until they saw a polar bear.
And then, Levi said, “I shot it.”
Even before bagging the bear, Levi was no novice hunter. He shot his first caribou when he was five. He has also hunted for seal. This Christmas he went rabbit hunting, his father said.
Kownirk said it’s good for children to begin hunting when they’re young. “It’s better to start early because we won’t always be here,” he said.
Kownirk said the meat from the bear was butchered and shared with relatives and friends in Iqaluit and beyond. Some of the bear meat was sent as far as Pangnirtung and Qikiqtarjuaq.
According to Inuit custom, the skin of the first animal killed by a young hunter is given to the midwives who were there when the hunter was born.
In Levi’s case, that means his aunt, Elisapee Inookee, and great aunt, Kilabuk Itorcheak. The two women will share the bearskin between them, said Levi’s mother, Kamiga Inookee.
Levi was going to go polar-bear hunting last year, but his name wasn’t drawn.
Iqaluit has a quota of 18 polar bears this year.
Levi’s next adventure will be hunting for walrus in the spring, Kownirk said.
“Next year he will drive his own skidoo and get a bear himself, but I’ll be there,” Kownirk said.
Meanwhile, Levi has turned his attention back to the bright images floating across the television screen.