Inuit sleds being built for Arctic sovereignty patrols in Canada

Sled dog waits near qamutik at hunting camp near Clyde River, Nunavut. Photo Eilis Quinn.Rangers have until Dec. 9 to build 30-plus qamutiks in Yellowknife in Canada’s Northwest Territories

The future of Arctic sovereignty will be riding on traditional Inuit wooden sleds that are being assembled by a group of Canadian Rangers.

The nine Rangers have been tasked with building more than 30 qamutiks — sleds that are traditionally used to haul supplies over snow and ice — for use in guarding remote northern regions and promoting Canada’s claim of sovereignty over the Arctic.

The Rangers, who were commissioned by the Canadian Ranger Patrol for the sled surveillance project, all hail from Nunavut and include six people chosen from Clyde River and three from Pond Inlet.

“We grew up with dog teams and we would build qamutiks for dogs to pull … but today the qamutiks are pulled by snow machines and we’re making smaller versions of qamutiks,” Elijah Panipakoocho of Clyde River told CBC News in Inuktitut.

The select members of the group were chosen based on their skill and craftsmanship, said David Suqslaq, who is in charge of the operation scheduled to last until Dec. 9.

Suqslaq, who is from Pond Inlet, said he will oversee the qamutik construction to ensure his crew is “working sections like cross-pieces” to build the sleds properly.

The Rangers are trained residents in northern communities who provide support during military and search and rescue operations.

Sleds durable, move across long distances

Once completed, most of the traditional sleds will be sent to Resolute Bay, Nunavut, for use by other Rangers in Arctic sovereignty surveillance missions. Some will be kept in Yellowknife for training purposes.

“In order for us to move over the long distance we do in the High Arctic, we need the qamutik to haul the equipment that we haul,” said Maj. Jeff Allen, the commanding officer of the First Canadian Ranger Patrol Group.

Allen praised the way the sleds move across the ice, their durability, and the amount of material they can carry whether they’re being hauled by a dog team or a snow machine.

The Rangers draw on their Inuit cultural expertise to build qamutiks, and they are considered masters of their craft.

Where there are no roads connecting Nunavut’s 25 communities, the qamutik is seen as a vital means of transportation on the land and a key component of setting up base in remote areas.

“It’s great. I’m proud to be making qamutiks for the Canadian Rangers to use,” Leslie Ashevak, a resident of Clyde River, said in Inuktitut. “I am really enjoying it.”

Originally posted November 30, 2011

CBC News

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