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Great Excursions has a knack for making the "out-of-the-way" gems...

Great Excursions has a knack for making the "out-of-the-way" gems that one would normally "stumble across" by chance int

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Travelling in the Company of Inuit

By John Houston, Arctic filmmaker, Inuit art dealer

2009-11-19

When I travel the Arctic, I travel in the company of Inuit. Always have, since an Inuit dog team carried my mother from Cape Dorset to Kimmirut, the start of a long journey South so I could be born.

We were returned to Baffin Island on the C. D. Howe three months later, and that trip likely sparked my love of sailing Arctic seas, but I think it goes deeper than that. The Arctic feels as mysterious, exotic and elusive a place today as it must have appeared through the spyglasses of early explorers. The mind requires a context to make sense of its mirages, its rhythms, its scale – and no-one can create that context like Inuit can. We also need time to process all that information – and travel by ship allows us that time.

I think a sea voyage with is the best way to experience the Arctic. They were first to engage Inuit resource staff, a decade before other ecotourism operators followed suit. And what a resource Inuit have turned out to be! The opportunity to spend time with people who live their culture, who embody their values, who share their world so generously – brings one to a better understanding of what culture is.And spirituality. And hospitality.

Perhaps international awareness of the Inuit character began with Robert Flaherty’s film: “Nanook of the North.” Now his grand-daughter, Martha Flaherty, is one of the Inuit featured in a new film she has co-written. The ancient Inuit oral traditionwas challenged by the arrival of our non-native culture, but Inuit quickly found new ways to communicate. Inuit culture is alive. It is thriving in Inuit art, in performance, in film, television and digital media. Inuit are communicating to the world and amongst themselves the need to cling tightly to culture, if we are to preserve our identity.

The Arctic sea and land are calling. If we listen, they will set things right deep inside us. And the Inuit we meet in our travels remind us of what is truly important in life. As long as I am able, I intend to travel the Arctic seas. Always have. Always will.



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