VISIT TO THE ARCTIC REGION—LAND OF ICE & SUN!!!
The Spring season has featured my first visit to the vast and wondrous Arctic region. This is the land of sun, ice, and snow! The Inuvialuit people are a robust people, who are also warm-hearted and welcoming.
There are two major regions of the Arctic in the Diocese: the eastern region, which include Ulukhaktok, Kugluktuk, and Cambridge Bay, and the western region, which includes Inuvik, Tuktoyaktuk, Paulatuk, and Tsiigehtchic.
The Easter season has been an appropriate time to experience the glory of the great Arctic region. The sun is relentless in its brilliance and intensity—even in late April and early May, the sun was bright well after midnight in Ulukhaktok on Victoria Island.
This is clearly a land that most of the world would find hard to relate to unless they have been here. Food, clothing, and artifacts are almost entirely derived from the animals and fish native to the area. All is put to use!
Given the rugged and austere life of the area, the quality of the early Oblates who arrived here and established the Church’s mission in the north is especially impressive. The men had to be hearty and innovative. They also had to be physically, emotionally, and spiritually capa-ble of living in a harsh and very austere environment. I am convinced that amoung their ranks were several heroes and saints, that are known only to God and the elders who fondly remember these faithful and energetic souls.
ULUHAKTUK, NWT — is on the southwestern end of Victoria Island. The area is a vast land-scape of ice, snow, rock, and bright sun. It also is swept by constant strong winds that make this part of the earth a harsh but wondrous land-scape. Life here is beautifully picturesque, and harsh.
The old town of “Holman” later took the Inuit name “Uluhuktuk.” it sits at the head of an inner harbor between two sets of mountain cliffs, and is the major community from which are launched various hunting expeditions for muskox, polar bear, seal, and wolf.
Oblate missionaries settled here over 70 years ago. Many supplies for establishing and building the church presence in what was known as “Holman” came aboard the “Mary”, which is now nestled on the inner shore of the old harbor.
The boat brought all sorts of supplies, including wood and other building materials, food-stuffs, supplies, and liturgical wares and resources for the work of the mission. The mission was established by the late Father Roger Buliard, OMI in 1939 and dedicated to Christ the King to recall Jesus’ command to His disciples to establish the kingdom of God through-out the whole world and “to be my witness … to the ends of the earth.” Fr. Henri Tardy O.M.I. (1917-2004) became the long-standing and dearly be-loved pastor, serving the people of this community for decades.
“Inukshuks” line the cliffs that overlook the Beaufort Sea shoreline, and also the high mountain cliffs north of the town site.
Mary Uyaraktek, at the far left of the photo, has overseen the Catholic mission presence for the last many years. She is joined by her daughter, her grand-niece, and friend for the celebration of Mass at her home on April 25, 2014.