The little boys at QWB


The hardworking people who report the news in Nunavut were confronted this week with a splendid example of the kinds of idiocy that they must overcome just to provide simple pieces of basic information to the public.

This week’s example was supplied by the Qikiqtaaluk Wildlife Board, who on Monday spewed out a press release concerning preparations for this years Hall Beach-Igloolik bowhead hunt.

It appears to be their first attempt to tell the public about a major cultural event that the entire circumpolar world — and not just Nunavut — is interested in.

At any rate, here’s what they had to say about the dirty scoundrels who skulk around Nunavut reporting the news:

“Due to some recent headlines which have been confusing to the public and frustrating to the Amittuq Bowhead Hunt Committee, the Qikiqtaaluk Wildlife Board is asking the media to stop ‘sensationalizing’ this hunt. This type of behaviour by the media is not acceptable in Inuit hunting tradition. The people involved in planning and carrying out the hunt wish to do this in a safe, efficient manner.”

The last “headline” to appear in Nunatsiaq News concerning the upcoming Hall Beach-Igloolik bowhead hunt said this:

“Igloolik and Hall Beach hunters finalize details for bowhead hunt.”

How irresponsible. A subhead printed below even contains the word “excitement,” sure to inflame the fevered imaginations of our impressionable readers.

But there’s more. The report, published July 19, goes on to say that the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board has approved the hunt, and that the hunters’ and trappers organizations in Igloolik and Hall Beach are still meeting to work out various details, including the date when hunters will finally set out. The story ends by reporting that the people of Hall Beach and Igloolik are excited about the event, and want to support their hunters.

Wow. How salacious.

Stories printed in News North and broadcast on CBC North on this subject are in a similar vein, made up of whatever shards of information reporters were able to pry from the tight-lipped officials responsible for overseeing the hunt.

The organizations involved seem to have forgotten what the bowhead hunt is all about — a celebration of Inuit culture. Bowhead hunting is what the Thule people, the direct ancestors of today’s Inuit, excelled at, because of technological refinements like the detachable harpoon head. It was their marine mammal hunting skills that helped the Thule people thrive as they migrated westward into the eastern Arctic from Alaska at least 1200 years ago.

Nunavut’s modern bowhead hunts, held legally since 1996 under a provision of the Nunavut land claims agreement, are mostly for symbolic and quasi-ceremonial purposes. It’s certainly not a food-gathering exercise — with one bowhead whale caught every two or three years, no one can argue that it’s an essential subsistence activity. No one in Nunavut will starve to death if bowhead whales are never caught again.

So for the bowhead hunting ritual to have any meaning, all Nunavummiut need to feel connected to it. But if the media — the public’s eyes and ears — can’t tell the public about what’s going on, the hunt will have no meaning. And if the hunt has no meaning, then there will no longer be any reason for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to licence a limited hunt for an endangered species.

But in response to the responsibility that’s been placed upon their shoulders, members of the Qikiqtaaluk Wildlife Board have reacted like little boys doing a big man’s job. Their fear and insecurity is painful to behold.

But their dishonesty is even worse to look at, as is exemplified by this nauseating, and essentially fascist, statement: “This type of behaviour by the media is not acceptable in Inuit hunting tradition.”

This “behaviour,” by the way, consists of a few phone calls made to the QWB’s highly paid employees, and to members of the hunt committee in Igloolik and Hall Beach. If making a phone call is “not acceptable in Inuit hunting tradition” then the Amittuq hunters had better cancel their teleconferences right away.

The media’s purpose, of course, is simply to help the Amittuq hunters share their experience with the rest of Nunavut — the only thing that makes the hunt worth doing in the first place.

The boys at the QWB have succeeded in creating the impression that the bowhead hunt is now out of control — and that it’s time to blame the media for their own ineptitude.

Our response to the QWB is this: Go out and find a mature adult to speak for you, someone who’s capable of answering simple questions with understandable answers. After that, we’ll sit down and get on with our jobs.


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