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Photo Class of Inuit Students Coral

We Call It Survival

Abe’s interviews are northern exploration. The story you are about to read will take you from the mountains of the Noatak River in Northern Alaska to Baffin Island in Nunavut. It will also carry your imagination from the traditional nomadic way of life of the Alaskan Inupiat to a federal government office building in Ottawa. They are both a geographical exploration, as Abe Okpik travelled in most communities north of 60, as well as an exploration through time and the concept of time itself. During his lifetime, Abe Okpik travelled through many different and changing worlds. He was so proud to tell that he was born in a traditional way. But life rapidly took him to some other spaces; like other Inuit of his generation, Abe hunted and trapped, travelled by dogteam and built igluit. Simultaneously, he also was an avid reader with a knack for historical detail, a man who eventually took a leading role in the development of political institutions in the Canadian North.  
Abraham Okpik
They had the book to prove to us that they had a better system. Therefore, we were taken from our supernatural world and changed to something else that was foreign to us. I don’t know whether it was a misunderstanding, or they just didn’t know how to go about living with others. I know some people who became parish ministers, not here, in other places, and who eventually left the ministry saying, “Well, this is a different world view!” The priesthood has changed, and they now understand that they have tried to break the beliefs of others, their supernatural and spiritual gifts.

Up the Mackenzie Valley, too, people had their values and beliefs. It wasn’t a game. It was a survival relationship between your creator and what was on the land for you. I think that a child, from the beginning, is a special gift to every one of us, whether we are in Alaska or Greenland or in other parts of the world. It was always a special gift to all of us that when people get older like me, the new generation will carry on our culture, language and values. (Pages 88-89)