Arctic Canada: Beaufort Delta region gets creative with activities amid restrictions on gatherings

The Inuvialuit Regional Corporation has been hosting online contests, including this submission from Jolene Donovan of her daughters when people were asked to make a ‘book nook.’ (Submitted by Britney Selina)
Organizations and communities across the Beaufort Delta region of the Northwest Territories are finding new ways to stay connected, amid COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings.

On Friday, the territorial government announced new restrictions around indoor and outdoor gatherings going into the long weekend. But events have been getting cancelled across the territory for the past month, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The town of Inuvik is holding an online Easter egg hunt and contest where residents create Easter eggs in their yards and submit photos of them online for judging.

The town’s library has also been posting online storytelling from different leaders in the community to their Facebook page, and recently Beaufort Delta region residents self-isolating at the Mackenzie Hotel got to take part in a sign making competition from their hotel rooms.

“Being cooped up gets to everybody,” said Inuvik Mayor Natasha Kulikowski. “You have to find ways that people can let off some steam, get out some artistic energy.”

Recently people self-isolating at the Mackenzie Hotel in Inuvik got to take part in a sign making competition from their hotel rooms. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

The town has also partnered with local organizations, such as the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (IRC) and Gwich’in Tribal Council, to host online shows where N.W.T. artists perform.

The IRC has also been trying to find unique ways to keep beneficiaries and residents in the region preoccupied.

Britney Selina, the manager of youth programs at the IRC, said they are trying to find ways to still support students and community members even though the schools are closed.

“It started with the at home bingo because I know people are probably missing their precious bingo,” laughed Selina. “So we thought why not come up with a way where they can do bingo at home where it’s more focused on working together as a team … than winning that big jackpot.”

Selina said every week they will showcase winners of some of the contests the organization is putting on — everything from making book nooks, to a snow and ice building challenge, to household scavenger hunts.

She said the goal is that the activities will help people’s mental health during this time.

“It’s up to us to do what we can … try to engage in any way that we can,” said Selina. “Take this time to distract them from the lows of the world and bring this positive light to the region.”

Sierra Daley, left, is a Peel River Jamboree committee member. The jamboree moved online this year. (Submitted by Sierra Daley)

The spring is normally jamboree season in the Beaufort Delta region, but all carnivals in the territory were cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But organizers for the Peel River Jamboree in Fort McPherson decided to move some of its contests online.

“It’s a weird time to adjust to this new normal. People don’t have the social interactions that they normally would and people just look forward to jamboree,” said Sierra Daley, a Peel River Jamboree committee member.

Organizers decided to hold some of the competitions virtually, starting with jigging, and the competitions are going to be held for the whole month of April.

Deborah Peterson won first place competing in the Peel River Jamboree’s online jigging competition in the women’s 16-30 age category. (Submitted by Deborah Peterson)

Only residents of certain places in the Beaufort Delta region are eligible to win the competitions, but Daley said people have been submitting jigging videos for fun from across the territory, along with Yukon and Alberta.

“We’re hoping that having these online events is helping to promote health and wellness throughout the region. Helping people to feel connected,” said Daley.

Since it was created April 5, the Facebook group devoted to the online contests has received more than 2,200 members as of Sunday night.

“It just creates a more positive atmosphere online, where before we were just kind of surrounded by fear and negativity with this virus.”

Related stories from around the North:

Arctic: Roundup of COVID-19 responses around the Arctic, Eye on the Arctic

Canada: Publisher in Arctic Canada putting Inuit-language books online amidst COVID-19 closures, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Visits to commercial establishments down sharply in Finnish Lapland, Google data, Yle News

Greenland: COVID-19: Arctic science expedition postpones flight campaign after trainee tests positive for virus, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Norwegian Arctic wilderness tourism hit particularly hard by coronavirus, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Moscow disinforms about coronavirus, says press freedom organization, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Why are Sweden’s politicians taking a different tack for coronavirus?, Radio Sweden

United States: Alaska’s largest rural airline RavnAir could be forced to shut down for good, court docs say, Alaska Public Media

Mackenzie Scott, CBC News

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