A family in Tuktoyaktuk is keeping Inuvialuit traditions alive by taking local youth along on an annual family caribou hunt.
Joining the Krengnektak family at their cabin near Hutchinson Bay for five days, four teens between the ages of 15 and 17 will learn how to locate and take down caribou, skin and gut them, then slice and hang the meat.
Sarah Krengnektak, her husband, Davy, and their children have been hunting caribou together as a family for years. They catch enough to fill their freezers during the winter months and share with the community.
Krengnektak told Cabin Radio they harvested 16 animals last year.
“Caribou is my main staple,” she said. “This time of year, [they] are very healthy, nice and fat. The meat is excellent quality.”
Krengnektak learned traditional Inuvialuit hunting practices from her parents and grandparents when she was a young girl, as did her husband. They passed this knowledge down to their children.
The family always looks forward to the hunt, Krengnektak said. It’s a time for connection – to each other, their Inuvialuit culture, and the land.
“Every time we’re out on the land, that’s the best time of the year for the whole family,” she said. “Everybody’s together. You’re working together, you’re learning new skills, and you reconnect with life in general.”
Youth slice the meat from a fresh caribou. Submitted photo.
The Krengnektaks wanted to provide a similar opportunity to others who might not get the chance otherwise, so they began taking other youth from the community to their camp three years ago.
This year, they’ve split the teens into two groups to allow for proper social distancing. They have four youth coming along.
Sixteen-year-old Jacob Lafferty is one of them. He’s going out to the camp on September 3 and will spend five days there.
He went on the hunt with the Krengnektaks last year, where he caught his third caribou.
Lafferty said he loves being on the land and seeing new things, but his favourite part is learning the hunting practices, which he wants to be able to teach his own children one day.
“When [the Krengnektaks] are gone, no one’s going to know how to hunt caribou, so we’ve got to keep our culture going around here,” he said.
Blaise Ovayuak, 16, is also going on the hunting trip on September 3. He hasn’t caught a caribou yet but he’s hoping this is the year.
“I know it,” he said.
Ovayuak said he loves spending time with the Krengnektaks as “they treat everyone like their own,” and is happy to be learning traditional skills.
His favourite way to eat caribou is fried in a pan with a side of Kraft Dinner.
“Plus, with ketchup and a Pepsi? Perfect,” he said.
To Krengnektak, there are several reasons why opportunities like this are important.
Youth ready to hunt the caribou. Submitted photo
“It gives the youth identity,” she said. “They know who they are as Inuvialuit, and how to harvest and live off the land, not using all the modern technology we have now.
“We have to get back to doing it how our ancestors lived, and how they lived in harmony, and how they stayed healthy from being active on the land.
“When you lived on the land, you were busy, busy, busy. You kept fit, you had a good diet, and now, there’s so much processed foods you can just buy at the store. It’s not good for one’s health.
“Knowing who you are and where you come from, your self-esteem is higher. In present day, there’s so much technology, so [many] things like Facebook and all that other stuff. Sometimes that just causes [negativity], especially with our young people.”
On the land, Krengnektak says, the kids can be themselves.
“It’s so peaceful out there.”