Polar Bear Hunt on Thin Ice

As Arctic temperatures climb and sea-ice retreats, biologists are sounding alarm about the health of polar bear populations. Inuit hunters, meanwhile, are worried about the fate of the lucrative sport-hunt industry they’ve come to depend on

AFTER SPENDING $25,000 AND 10 DAYS on the frozen Beaufort Sea, Lester “Rusty” Pride didn’t get his polar bear. He was after a nine-footer, with paws the span of hubcaps and giant maiming incisors. “I wanted a big one,” says Rusty, an affable and freckled RV-park owner from Delaware. “We saw two, but they were too far to shoot.” Rusty still managed to return with a muskox – an extra $8,000 for his Inuvialuit guide, Boogie Pokiak. Continue reading

Sealing Their Fate

Two decades ago the anti-fur movement killed the sealskin market and the Arctic economy. Once again, animal-rights activists have sealers in their sights. Will the Inuit take another hit?

IN THEIR MATCHING RED JUMPSUITS, Sir Paul McCartney and his then-wife Heather Mills took to the sunny ice floes off Prince Edward Island last spring to loll with seal pups. They posed on their bellies for a scrum of photographers, just centimetres from a button-eyed baby. In his thick Liverpool brogue, McCartney pleaded before the cameras: “Unless something’s done about it, he’s going to be clubbed to death in the next few weeks.” Canada’s annual seal harvest was around the corner, and the U.S. Humane Society’s star-studded contingent had arrived early to drum up publicity for what it calls a cruel and unnecessary slaughter. Continue reading

Frontier Architects

With clean, modern designs, architects Jack Kobayashi and Antonio Zedda — aka KZA — are dragging the Yukon out of the gold rush

AMID A SEA OF BEIGE SIDING AND TWO-CAR GARAGES, Jack Kobayashi’s house emerges like a towering middle finger. “It’s a little bit in your face,” he concedes as we pull into the driveway. Half his squarish duplex is a matte grey with an odd, jutting yellow panel and matching door; the other side is a windowed Kensington-blue with a red door. Kobayashi’s home is a nervy response to the blandness of neighbouring dwellings in Whitehorse’s latest suburb, and a reminder that houses needn’t look like they came off a conveyor belt. Continue reading

Uncle Berwyn’s Backwoods Boon

From his secret birch-tree stand near Dawson City, Lyndsey Larson boils and bottles a savoury syrup.

LYNDSEY “UNCLE BERWYN” LARSON SITS ACROSS from me in a clammy, raucous pub in Dawson City, Yukon. Over the barks and screeches of drunken patrons, we talk syrup. “Don’t think maple; don’t think pancakes,” he warns as I dip my finger in the dark, silky elixir that he cooks up on a secret plot of forest 140 kilometres east of town. On my tongue birch syrup is sort of spicy, rich and – Larson’s right – not necessarily what you’d want topping your pancakes, but better suited to fish marinades and dressings. “I eat a lot of this stuff,” he says with a wide, goofball grin. Continue reading

Squeezing Money From Stone

As the pioneers of Inuit carving pass on, many worry about the new crop of artists that is churning out ubiquitous polar bears and souvenirs for quick money

“POLAR BEARS ARE KILLING ME,” says Bill Nasogaluak. The 53-year-old Inuit artist recently left Yellowknife to escape a five-inch-high stone bear – the bane of his career. A carver for 20 years, Nasogaluak now lives near Toronto, closer to high-end art dealers who will buy his expressive, unconventional sculptures. His works depict ancient legends and vent social issues, but, as he puts it, “they couldn’t compete with a $200 polar bear.” Continue reading

Melting the Myth

As global warming shrinks Arctic sea ice cover, sovereignty experts are fretting about a less perilous Northwest Passage. Will rising temperatures invite a parade of foreign cargo ships through the sought-after sea route?

IN A SHOWY DISPLAY OF CANADIAN SOVEREIGNTY, defence minister Bill Graham stirred a minor uproar this summer when he took a chopper to a forlorn speck of rock between Ellesmere Island and Greenland. By stepping on Hans Island, Graham revived a decades old spat with the Danes, who say the island is part of Greenland, and accordingly Danish territory. Since the 1970s both counties have periodically sent a delegation to the barren rock to plant flags and flaunt their dominion. “Welcome to the Danish Island,” read a note Denmark’s minister of Greenland affairs left on a visit in 1984, stuck to a bottle of brandy. Continue reading