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