With Iglootalk, you’re never far from the North

Former Baker Lake residents create on-line Arctic affairs forum


If you find yourself wondering what to do over the holidays, pay a visit to a lively on-line discussion forum called Iglootalk.
Iglootalk is the perfect place to spend time when the wind’s blowing, it’s dark and freezing cold outside and you don’t feel like visiting anyone, but you’d like to talk about anything from politics to climate change to your favourite television show.

Iglootalk is the brainchild of two former Baker Lake residents: Heather Tickie Ochalski, who lives in Ottawa, and her sister, Jennifer Long, who now lives in Saskatchewan. A friend in Manitoba also helps moderate the forum.

The forum — which is so far just a hobby for the trio — went on-line in January 2004. Since then its popularity has spread and grown by word of mouth.

“We wanted a forum that was welcoming to everyone, to those people who want to discuss political issues, without being ridiculed, or to those who just want to connect with the North,” Ochalski said in an interview from Ottawa. “We wanted to talk about real issues, with northern content. I’ve been to other forums, which seem to shed a negative light on Inuit and the North. We wanted a forum that was positive, to grasp at different issues and still be positive, progressive.”

On Iglootalk, there are special forums for youth, men, women, on popular culture, environmental issues, globalization, news, health, Nunavut, the NWT, education and whatever else that’s suggested by those who log on.

“I’m more politically inclined so the topics I put up are on political topics, whereas with my sister, her topics are more light, things of general interest. When she and I disagree about something our friend Rayla Sevoga tends to moderate us, so it works out,” Ochalski said.

Forum visitors can decide to register and log on with names of their own choice and invention, which include: Arctic Wolf, Chucky, Albino_Eskimo, Nunachick, Serenechaos, Arcticqueen, Inuk 16, Arnakallak and Frosted Angel.

The mood of the forum is generally good-natured.

Jennifer Long, Heather’s sister, now lives in Saskatchewan.
“We make clear we won’t tolerate personal attacks. When they feel they’ve done so, they apologize to each other. That’s really helpful to keep the dialogue going in a professional manner. People have a sense of community,” Ochalski said. “People disagree and argue but mostly it’s been around issues, not personal attacks.”
In November, Ochalski launched an online petition in “opposition to the dumping of nuclear waste in Canada’s Arctic” as soon as she heard about the possibility last month and was surprised at the response — nearly 400 signed the petition.

“It’s given people a sense of an ability to mobilize,” Ochalski said.

The site has some interesting discussions going that appear to draw in Inuit and Qallunaat in the North of both sexes and many ages as well as Inuit living in the South.

Here’s a sample from a recent discussion on the topic “I really miss Nunavut people and the true nature.”

“I really miss Nunavut, why? cause I miss talking to Inuit in person (other than my family) using my or own language (Inuktitut, I miss seeing Inuit when I go shopping or etc.

“I surely miss country food, that’s the most important one for my tummy and my mood otherwise I lose my appetite time to time and I hate it when it happens! I wish for Uyuuq (caribou soup with kikaaqs right now or frozen maktak with salt mmmm….. yummy!!).

“I also miss seeing Inuit wearing their traditional outdoor clothes such as homemade parkas, kamiks especially amautiks etc. I also miss visiting my friends when I need a break from the house or family. Anyhow, I just miss Nunavut!” says one entry.

“I really miss eating quaq, nipku, and pipsi. When I get really desperate, I cut up steak into little chunks and fry it in butter and onions and pretend it’s tiqtitaq. There’s lots of Inuit in Ottawa but it’s hard for me to go out due to having little ones. So I hardly see my fellow Inuit,” says another.

“I know how you feel. I feel homesick especially during the Christmas season also every time the season changes, when everyone’s enjoying the outdoors. But I’ll tell you, it gets easier and just have to take it one day at a time. Hope you feel better soon.”

Anyone with access to the Internet can log on to www.iglootalk.com and register to become a member.

Ochalski said more Iglootalk members “would be a nice Christmas present!”

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