Inuvik is a modern First Nations town of about 3,600 people. The building was started in 1955 as a home for the Inuvialuit people of the area. Most of the buildings are built on pilings so as not to thaw the permafrost. The water, sewer and heat originate at a central facility in town and are conveyed to each building via the above-ground 'utilidors.' Most of the buildings in town date from the late 1950's, but there is alos the brand new and quite striking Inuvialuit Regional Corporation office building.
The most well-known building in town is the Catholic church, Our Lady of Victory, aka The Igloo Church. Unlike virtually all other buildings in town, the church is built with a concrete slab on an insulating gravel pad. The architect was an Oblate father with no formal education. The Way of the Cross was painted by a deaf-mute native girl with unstudied talent. When I read the deacription of the church, I thought it sounded pretty hokey, but in person, the church is quite attractive.
We also took a flight over the Mackenzie River Delta up to Tuktoyaktuk on the Arctic Ocean. This is another Inuvialuit community of about 950 people, about 90 miles north of Inuvik. Many of the residents there live a traditional lifestyle at least part of the year. Some people take provisions and live off of the land at remote bush camps. Part of their diet is satisfied by hunting beluga whale, including rendering the blubber for the oil which supplies many of the nutrients that we get from vegetables and grains.
The most memorable thing from the tour of the town was visiting the town icehouse. This is the community freezer. It consists of a tunnel system excavated by hand 30 feet down into the permafrost. There are a couple of tunnels with perhaps a dozen rooms off of them. The temperature is a constant -15 deg C (about 5 deg F). The residents can store items, such as their beluga whale catch, until they need them. The tunnels have beautiful large ice crystals on the upper walls and ceiling, formed of the moisture from people and the food. We got to see what permafrost looks like: a mixture of water, earth and rocks.
We would like to thank Maureen Pokiak of Ookpik Tours for the
very interesting and informative tour of Tuk. She even showed us her
sled dogs and puppies. These are actual working and racing dogs that
they depend on when they are at their bush camp in the winter.
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