Pangnirtung students plan trip to Scotland

Pangnirtung’s graduating Grade 12 class wants to visit Peterhead, Scotland this year to reinforce ties between the people of Pangnirtung and the former Scottish whaling port.



PANGNIRTUNG — A photograph of Inuit dancing on a pier at Peterhead, Scotland represents Pangnirtung’s Scottish heritage.

Now, a group of Pangnirtung students hope it also foreshadows a piece of their future.

Twelve high school students are raising funds to go to Peterhead and follow in their ancestors’ dancing footsteps.

“We have a dance. It’s a re-enactment of a bowhead whale hunt,” said Rebecca Mearns, one of 12 Attagoyuk School students who wants to visit Scotland this spring. They also want to dance some Scottish reels.

Before the Grade 11 and Grade 12 students can put their dancing shoes on, they must raise about $30,000. The money will cover travel costs for the students and two teachers, who will accompany them.

Since September, they’ve launched auctions, raffle draws, hosted fundraising dinners and dances, and gone on the local radio station. They have also set up a canteen within the school.

“The students have been left to do everything. We’re doing it by ourselves,” Mearns said.

Each year, graduating students in Pangnirtung raise money for a trip. Last year’s class travelled to Edmonton, and Greenland was the destination of choice two years ago.

This year’s trip will tie into Scotland’s place in the history of Pangnirtung.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Scottish whalers travelled to Baffin Island to earn a living. Scottish blood now flows through the veins of many Pangnirtung residents. Some residents even have relatives living in Scotland.

Attagoyuk’s vice-principal, Donald Mearns, is Rebecca’s father and originally comes from Scotland.

He got the idea from a writer he met during a recent trip to Scotland. The writer, Gavin Sutherland, wrote a book that mentioned Pangnirtung and its Scottish whalers.

“It’d be an amazing vision to see Inuit dance on the pier at Peterhead,” he told Mearns.

Should the dream come to fruition, students will be billeted at homes in Peterhead. They will visit museums, and work with a school in the community.

Donald Mearns said the students’ visit will undoubtedly generate a lot of interest amongst Peterhead residents.

“We would get so may people. The interest will be huge,” Mearns said.

Students may even meet Scottish relatives.

“We’re hoping with this visit we’ll drop some of those barriers and people will come forward and find out who some of their cousins are,” Mearns said.

The students have raised about $15,000 so far, Mearns said. They now hope the various Inuit associations will donate to the trip.

The students are scheduled to be in Scotland from April 27 – May 9.

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