My adventures in deltiology (postcard collecting) took me to new latitudes Friday, 63°45’ North to be exact, as I received my northernmost postcard to date! The Road to Nowhere on the northern edge of the city of Iqaluit, Nunavut, is a tourist destination in itself just for the name . The street sign – in both English and Inuktitut – was featured prominently on the face of the card in a proud way not reflecting its ominous name.
Sent to me by Kate D., a nurse from Victoria who is spending a few years in Canada’s Arctic working with tuberculosis patients and epidemic disease management (I think that’s the best way to describe it), this postcard reflects the hope for the North that has been lacking in Canada for too long. In previous decades the three northern Territories were ignored and neglected as regions sparsely inhabited by a strange group of aboriginals who hunted on ice floes and lived in igloos. The North was also viewed mainly as a resource-rich area for exploitation. Today, thankfully, the North is being recognized as a land with an amazing and unique culture, hosting a people with a distinct language and governance system, and a region that could decide the fate of our planet. As the Arctic ice cap continues to shrink, and the polar bears start to head south, look for the Arctic to figure much more prominently in Canadian and global thought.
ᑐᓄᕕᐊᖅ (The North)
The environmental susceptibility of the North was mentioned in Kate’s message. This card, sent shortly after New Years (when the days are only 5-6 hours long), mentions the unusually balmy weather. “It’s the 1st year they couldn’t do the Skidoo parade at midnight on New Years as Frobisher Bay is not yet frozen!” For a region where temperatures average -27 degrees at this time of year, this is strange and can be dangerous as much transportation occurs over frozen rivers and lakes.
Iqaluit means “many fish” and Nunavut means “our land” in Inuktitut, but is that land changing too quickly or too drastically?
The postcard features the street’s name written in the Inuktitut language. This written language of shapes and curves is fascinating to me, and I was very pleased to see that Kate wrote out my name in those characters. I have reproduced my name as best as possible here: ᐸᓐᔭᒥᓐ. I hope this is an adequate translation. The original postcard contained a character (syllabic) that I cannot find in any online charts, so I reproduced the “ ᔭ ja” sound character that I think is most suitable.
The Inuktitut language is one of Canada’s many indigenous languages, but in the North it is used as one of the three official languages, having signs and government documents written in English, French and Inuktitut dialects depending on the region. Nunavut was the last province/territory to join confederation, is the largest in Canada, and the least populated with approximately 29,500 people.
This postcard instilled hope in me, for the Arctic and for those who travel there. The Road to Nowhere is one of the northernmost and last roads on continental North America. Once you reach the end you must get into a boat or swim. The bleak arctic desert looms ahead of the traveller and signifies the end of their journey. But turning around, the Road to Nowhere becomes a road to anywhere a person wants to go. The North is slowly working its way into the consciousness of Canadians deeper than just our anthem and I am glad to have received a postcard from such an inspiring place. This makes me want to travel there, spend time there, and immerse myself in the culture, but in the mean time I will read Billy Connolly’s Journey to the Edge of the World which was also a television mini-series (the Road to Nowhere sign is the opening of the book). If available, this is an excellent promotion for and funny narrative of exploration in the Northern Territories and experiencing the amazing people.
I’ve also reproduced some interesting language samples below:
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
I think over again my small adventures, my fears, These small ones that seemed so big. For all the vital things I had to get and to reach. And yet there is only one great thing, The only thing. To live to see the great day that dawns And the light that fills the world.
– Inuit Song
ᓴᐃᒧ (Goodbye, peace be with you!)Weather information courtesy of Environment Canada. English to Inuktitut translation by the Inuktitut Living Dictionary and Wikipedia Inuktitut Syllabics Chart. ‘Inuit Song’ taken from Quote Mountain. Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Inuktitut courtesy of Omniglot. Image of the Road to Nowhere sign belongs to “Our Nunavut Adventure (http://melissadanielledavis.blogspot.com) and remains completely and solely under their copyright. * For more information on Nunavut, please visit the Nunavut Government website and Wikipedia, or this general facts page by the Frobisher Inn.