Canadians usually think of themselves as northerners, even when they live only a short distance away from the U. S. border, but it is often not until they get a taste of life north of the Arctic Circle that they really understand how different it can be from what they expect.
Showing life in the north was the focus of the Walrus Talks at the Winnipeg Art Gallery on Mar. 26, 2015.
Various areas of Canada have been hosts to the Walrus Talks a series of presentations ad discussions on a variety of issues related to life in this country.
The subject for the Winnipeg talks was life in the Canadian Arctic, with all of the challenges and joys it brings for both long-term residents and short-term visitors.
The purpose of the Walrus Talks was, as one speaker stated, “to bring the 66th parallel closer to the 49th.” The event, sponsored by the Walrus Magazine, featured seven speakers talking about their experiences north of the Arctic Circle, especially in relation to the people and issues they have encountered.
The evening began with remarks by three organizers of the event, who spoke of the four million people who live in the north and of how the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s large collection of Inuit art is a starting point for learning about the people and their culture.
Next came author, explorer, and geographer James Raffan, who talked of the beauty, resilience, and sadness that he observed in people from northern regions in Canada and other parts of the world as they struggle with changes in both climate and culture.
The second speaker was historian, author, and Fullbright scholar P. Whitney Lackenbaur, who spoke of how a sense of the vastness of scale is part of the identity of the north.
Lola Sheppard of the Arctic Adaptations Project talked about the struggles of designing buildings that suit the special requirements of the north and also fulfill the people’s needs through sharing resources, designing a flexible infrastructure, and designating gathering spaces.
Artist and sculptor Ruben Anton Komangapik used his paintings and sculptures to illustrate how people can find today what can help tomorrow, especially in relation to the many lifestyle changes that have come from the end of the seal hunt and other traditional practices.
Sheila Watt-Cloutier, environmental and human rights advocate, talked about the life skills that people learned through their traditional way of life, including resilience and ingenuity.
The architect of the new Inuit Art Centre at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Michael Maltzan, spoke about building relationships and making visual connections between the south and the north.
The final featured speaker was Tanya Tagaq, who talked from a very personal perspective about her experiences of being born and raised in Nunavut and later dealing with such issues as the missing and murdered Indigenous women.
The evening ended with remarks by Janet Stewart of the CBC and Shelley Ambrose, who again emphasized the educational component of the event. The Walrus Talks evening was only a beginning for helping people understand the challenges of living in the north, but it was a good time for people from different parts of Canada to get to know each other a bit better.