My Aunt arrived today for a two week visit, the first of any of my relatives to come to Arctic Bay. And amongst other things she brought with her potted herbs... Basil, Savory, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. I'm a happy cook.
A little over thirty years ago I missed the first day of school in Roblin. Instead I went to Winnipeg and to the concert of one of my favourite bands at the time, Bachman Turner Overdrive. The day before school was to start BTO was Taking Care of Business at the old Winnipeg Arena and I was there, taking in what was really my first concert (unless you count Roy Orbison or the Stampeders in Yorkton but my parents were there so that really shouldn't count).
So the day I was to start school that year found me at the Bus Depot in Winnipeg, waiting to board the bus for the six hour trip back home. As luck would have it there was a very pretty girl waiting at the bus depot, and it turned out that she was on the same bus I was taking.
As it turned out, she was a new class mate, new to Roblin and our school. She also had been to the concert, missing class. Had I known that long bus ride might have been passed much more pleasantly in conversation, instead of with me stealing glances at her for six hours. Well maybe not, my insecurities probably would have prevented that from happening.
We finished High School together, and the night of our graduation, when the lights went out at the house we were celebrating in, we stole a very sweet kiss. And I'd like to say that I overcame my awkardness and that the kiss led to something more, but alas I didn't. We never kissed again.
In the run up to my Thirty Year highschool reunion (incredibly I graduated at the age of one), one of my classmates, set up a blog to use as a kind of messageboard. When I visited it a couple of days ago I was shocked to learn that the Girl at the Bus Depot has just been diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gerhig's Disease). As I told her in an email ALS would be one of my darkest fears (only somewhat mitigated by the fact that it often leaves the intellect intact, witness Stephen Hawking) and that I was at a loss to say something that didn't sound trite or forced. She, of course, sounds upbeat and positive, which of course is in keeping with who she is.
So it appears as though we are both going to miss our reunion. I'll probably miss it because of the demands of the B&B and the prohibitive expense of flying out of here. She might miss it because she has things to do and places to see. It might be just as well. We are of course both married, what would happen if the lights went out?
One of the beautiful thing about nature is, if you go out searching for something, she'll surprise you with something else. We had a couple of hours of free time this afternoon so we decided to head to Nanisivik so I could seek out a bird that I hadn't seen for awhile, the Common Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula). I knew that they nest at the water lake at Nanisivik, but I really didn't have it narrowed down more than that, and my source had long since moved away. We drove the myriad of roads around the various ponds there with no luck but then in a little pond I saw a Red-throated Loon (Gavia stellata) right next to the road. We stopped and had some really good looks with the binoculars and then parked the car. Travis and I then went walking to look for the Plover. As we did the Loon, of course, flew away.
Now we hadn't gotten very far when she flew back to the pond, even with the truck still parked there and I thought Hmmm. After a little hike, some mud, and one drake Old Squaw (sorry Long-tailed Duck sheesh) (Clangula hymalis) we still hadn't found our Plovers and worked our way back to the truck. As we started to drive we again flushed the Loon, and it was only then that I noticed the nest, with one egg in it, literally 10 metres from the road. Granted it isn't a heavily travelled road but the odd vehicle goes by. And that drive to reproduce is one of the many beautiful things about all living things.
Before coming to Arctic Bay, Shooyook lived near Fort Ross. Fort Ross was a Hudson Bay Company Post at the eastern entrance of the Bellot Strait. Fort Ross was used for a number of years before being abandoned, due to uncertain ice conditions. The manager's house, which still stands, has the most unexpected and exquisite wood work in it. But Shooyook and the group of Inuit he was a part of, lived on the land in the area surrounding the post.
One of the group was a woman, Soosee, who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. And because she suffered from it, far from any medical attention, the entire group suffered. In the late 50's after two men travelled to Spence Bay (Taloyoak), the RCMP flew in and she was taken for medical attention, eventually ending up in Edmonton where she was diagnosed as having "Acute anxiety state" not Schizophrenia and sent back, not having received any treatment. By 1964 her condition was worsening again. He husband was unable to leave her alone, and couldn't hunt, and again the RCMP were called in.
This time the local doctor in Taloyoak made sure that his diagnosis of Schizophrenia accompanied her to Edmonton. That coupled with her violence kept her in Edmonton for a short while. But after four months she was deemed well enough to go home and returned to Fort Ross. However soon her violence and descent into the illness force the group to flee their camp for a nearby island, leaving her behind. After several days of watching the rampaging woman through telescopes, Shooyook and another young man, Aiyaoot, were sent back to the camp to try and retrieve the groups possessions before they were all destroyed. They were told that should she be as violent and ill as before they were to shoot her. Upon their arrival in the camp, Soosee came at them, yelling and swinging a rifle, and they shot and killed her. It was something that was accepted by all in the group, that it was something that had to be done and life returned to normal.
However a short time later Shooyook was arrested in Taloyoak and along with Aiyaoot was charged with murdering Soosee. Their trial, held in Spence Bay in 1966, was reported on widely in Canada, and made (in)famous by a magazine article "The Executioners" in MacLean's magazine written by Farley Mowat (as an aside I met Aiyaoot's defence lawyer, now an Alberta Judge, here in Arctic Bay where he presided over one of our court sessions).
There was no arguments of the facts, all Inuit witnesses freely spoke about what had taken place, including Soosee's husband, who had directed them to kill her if she was still violent. Mowat's article (and other news reports also) was a searing criticism of the justice system. It was later rebutted by another article in MacLean's by a long time resident of the North, pointing out many errors in it.
In truth, Justice seemed to be well served by the trial. While acknowledging that a woman was murdered it considered that there were extraordinary circumstances and a unique culture, poorly served by resources, involved. The presiding Judge, Sissons is quoted as stating "This is a difficult case. Our sympathy must be with these people who found themselves in this impossible situation... I do not envy you your task". At the end of the trial the jury deliberated for three hours and announced that it had been difficult to come to a decision because "We considered the Eskimo's culture as it affects the case".
Aiyaoot was found not guilty, but Shooyook was found guilty of manslaughter in the death of Soosee. Taking into consideration the circumstances and the jury's plea for leniency he sentenced Shooyook to a year's suspended sentence. After the trial, a free man (albeit one with a criminal record) Shooyook walked home, a distance of some 320 kms.
Most of this post is based on, and in many cases is little more than paraphrased, a chapter in a book on Dr. Otto Schaefer, the Doctor in Spence Bay who sent Soosee to Edmonton and who also testified for the defence in Shooyook's trial. The book is entitled Sunrise Over Pangnirtung by Gerald W. Hankins, M.D. (ISBN 0-919034-97-7), although some is from personal conversation with various people in Arctic Bay.
After learning of the story while I was still a member I discovered that Shooyook still had a criminal record for this incident. I encouraged him to seek a pardon, one I hope was granted.
After a personal encounter with Mowat at Spence Bay a day or so after the trial, Otto Schaefer also felt disinclined to accept his passionate claims. Mowat had heard that a plane would be arriving in two days to transport Otto, the x-ray team, and a couple of patients to Cambridge Bay. He came to the nursing station where Otto was working and demanded that he be given a seat on the plane. Mowat's angry outburst when Otto told him the plane would be full and he could not dislodge any patient undermined the credibility of his written defence of the rights and dignity of the Inuit."
One of my favourite poets is David Lee, the first Poet Laureate of Utah. When he was first recommended to me, Martin said something along the lines of "he writes about pigs", and I thought to myself that there could not possibly be anything worth writing poetry about pigs. But I read the volume The Porcine Canticles and was hooked.
Last night I randomly opened a box of books that have finally made their way from storage to the house and sitting on top was David Lee's A Legacy of Shadows, an anthology of some of his work, and I have been carrying it around in my hand all evening, opening it and treating myself to these great descriptive poems.
I thought I should share with those of you unfamiliar with Mr. Lee one of these poems, but I've been stymied by the wealth of them. I've finally settled on one that (according to something I read) is his wife's favourite. It is also one of mine. Sit back and enjoy the voices.
Interlude by David Lee
Help me right here sed John and I grasped the bottom rim, we lifted the barrel into the pickup then sat on the tailgate, hot, a warm canyon breeze spilled across the yellow grass
It was this one summer back home I's young about the time most kids getting out of school but I'd done quit Old man Cummings had me helping him lifting all this heavy weight on a wagon load we made a tote and set in the shade to rest he must of started remembering commenced to talking sez
summer clover jingle jangle
he done taken and put his hand in his pocket and pulled out this silver dollar looked at it like he never seen it before smooth so you couldn't even tel the man on the side, all the words rubbed off from being carried so long it was meadow clover all over stretching out green and yellow I didn't say nothing, he talked, sed I was 17 they come in wagons putting on Gypsy carnivals whole town wanted them to go on known they'd steal whatall's loose everybody went to the tent that night anyway they paid me a dollar to water horses I worked all afternoon hard I was 17 for a dollar
she had eyes that laughed same color as them fancy shoes laugh like silver bobbles on a red-and-blue velvet dress color of midnight even in the dark I seen me looking back from those black eyes I wasn't scared she shown me slow, easy the whole field of yellow clover bells on her shoes real soft jingle jangle
so many nights I can't sleep smell comes in the window after me when my wife's alive times I lain the whole night beside her shaking awake, all that dark tearing holes in me nothing I could do but stay there listen for the sound of sliver windbells kids in the next room, sleeping, nobody could smell it or hear it but me summer clover jingle jangle
he set there staring at that money in his hand almost like he's talking to it like he done forgotten I was there too never sed no more put it in his pocket and closed his eyes I could tell he's smelling the summer grass it was all over for then
so let's take this pigfeed out to the pens and we'll be done lifting it down won't be as hard as getting it in 2nd half's always easier'n first
Mike at 10,000 Birds, the father of I and the Bird is hosting it's first annual edition in two weeks. The edition will be it's first themed edition. Those of you who have previously contributed to I and the Bird are invited to submit post on why you bird, why you blog and/or why you blog about birds. It should be a thought filled edition.
Today is the Summer Solstice, and I suppose it is somehow appropriate that an hour after I went to bed Hilary awoke and refuses all of my entreaties that she sleep. I've given up now of course, and she sits in her swing and I count down the moments until it is time to get up and get breakfast ready for the clients, a little more than an hour from now.
Most of the world, or rather the Northern Hemisphere, think of today as the longest day of the year, but of course that doesn't apply here. We have just as much sun today as we have had for the past six weeks or so, 24 hours. Today the sun will reach it's highest point in the northern sky. More significantly for me, it marks that beginning of the slide towards the sunset and the winter.
In this land it is hard to get away from the fact that winter is just around the corner. We've not had a great spring this year, it has felt more like October with overcast skys and snow flurries and rain. Flights are missing just like it was fall. But on the other hand, the wildflowers seem to be back on their schedule after the late year last year. We went for a drive to the water lake last night and I noticed that Arctic Poppies have begun blooming and that on some hills the Arctic Dryad are already abundant. Yesterday we actually had a great deal of sun, but now the sky promises more of the fall weather, it is overcast and cool, and looks foggy up top.
But things are looking up. Hilary has just closed her eyes, so perhaps I can squeeze in fifty minutes or so of sleep. Then pancakes.
Amy Hooper, the force behind Wild Bird on the Fly, has decided to rectify the dearth of Birding Fiction out there with a contest. Her brainchild, First Friday, is set to be a monthly fiction contest, to encourage birding Fiction. The rules are fairly simple, 500 words of birding themed fiction, and no anthropomorphizing the birds. Submissions for July's contest are due via email July 5th, for posting on Friday July 7th. The prize? A choice from a large selection of bird related books.
The High Arctic is rich in history, some recent, some ancient. People have lived in this area for at least 3,500 years. There are those who believe the Vikings visited here, not so far fetched an idea given our proximity to Greenland. There was certainly trade with them as some of their textiles or yarn have been found near Pond Inlet. It was not that surprising to learn that a resident of Arctic Bay played a prominent role in Northern Justice history.
Isaac Shooyook is more commonly known just as Shooyook. He is a smaller man of slight build. It would probably be more accurate to describe him as wiry as I know of few people of his age with his strength. He is in his sixties and I've seen remarkable feats of strength by this quiet unassuming man. One of the Inuit games that is some times played is called the Airplane. Basically you lie face down on the floor with your arms outstretched. Three people pick you up off the ground, one at each wrist and another at your feet, and carry you at a walk until you can no longer hold yourself up. One Christmas games, when I was in a little better shape, I participated in the same game of Airplane as Shooyook. I lasted about 2/3's the length of the gym. Shooyook on the other hand was carried up one length of the gym, back the same length, and more than 2/3's of the length on the third one before he could no longer hold himself up. He was beaten only by a couple of young men in their twenties (one of which I don't even think held his arms out straight the entire time and had I been a judge, would have disallowed it).
I know of several stories of Shooyook in his younger days. Once he was hunting with some others on the other side of the Brodeur Peninsula, in Prince Regent Sound. Some how the hunting party lost their dogs and were without transportation. Knowing of a group living in igluit in Admiralty Inlet most of the group began a long trek around the Brodeur Peninsula. But Shooyook reckoned that the group was almost directly across the peninsula from where they were and set out to cross it. This is mountainous country and there peninsula is probably 1500 to 2000 feet high at this point. But he crossed and found the iglu.
He didn't however have the strength to push aside the snow block at the entrance and that is where they found him. When they brought him in his skin clothes were frozen around him and had to be cut off. A short time later though, with a borrowed dog team he set out and brought back the rest of his hunting party.
In 1965 Shooyook was a young man in his 20's living near Fort Ross at the East end of the Bellot Strait. It was there that circumstances took him into Canada's consciousness after his charge and subsequent trial for murder.
I dislike the city because since the best writer on the web, Whippoorwill, moved there in December she has only posted 26 times. Because her posts steadily declined in January, February, and March. Because she only posted once in April and hasn't posted since the 12th of that month.
As much as I hate to admit it I fear all is lost and I'll no longer be able to read anything from my friend's unique point of view. I keep going back, everyday, but it looks like it's just another reason to hate Toronto the good.