Inuit in Ottawa gain access to fresh seal meat thanks to 2 hunters in Quebec


The first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in 2021 marked the start of a gray seal searching undertaking and a deep friendship between Yoanis Menge and Ruben Komangapik.

Menge, who lives in the Magdalen Islands, invited Nunavut’s Komangapik to be a part of him on a seal hunt on the islands.

Komangapik remembers the balmy sunny day fondly. He joked it was “like searching in Cuba.”

Menge says they snapped an image of themselves in their orange vests as they posed subsequent to their catch of the day. He recalled having to determine how to caption the picture to put up on-line.

Yoanis Menge, left, and Ruben Komangapik, proper, caught a gray seal on Sept. 30 final 12 months. Menge says they determined to caption this photograph Reconseal. (Submitted by Yoanis Menge)

“We got here up with “recon-seal” as a play of phrases (a mixture of) reconciliation and seal for the animal and in order that’s how (all the pieces) began with a phrase,” mentioned Menge.

That phrase impressed a brand new searching undertaking, titled Reconseal Inuksiuti, based by the 2 mates.

Last week marked the beginning of looking for the second 12 months of the initiative, with Komangapik and Menge harvesting seal meat from the Magdalen Islands for native organizations to distribute to city Inuit in Ottawa.

“It’s actually, actually nice as a result of it is not likely an on a regular basis prevalence that we’re in a position to have access to seal meat and now we’re filling the void to have the opportunity to have nation meals,” mentioned Komangapik, who describes himself as a nomad who presently lives in Ottawa.

“Numerous Inuit are being born and raised in the South and they do not know who they’re. And they’ve a possibility to rediscover the place they’re from with these actions.”

Reconciling stereotypes

Menge and Komangapik’s paths first crossed in 2012, when their two passions merged.

Menge, a photographer, cut up his time between the Magdalen Islands and Europe and was returning again house from France with the purpose of placing collectively an exposé on the seal hunt.

“I needed to be shut to the hunters and stay with them and to seize the true lifetime of a hunter even when they don’t seem to be searching. Because searching isn’t just about killing animals and that is what we neglect,” mentioned Menge.

He says that he was simply beginning to be taught to hunt when he met Komangapik, and joined searching crews throughout the North. Menge says the pictures he launched have been revealed round the world and are in black and white to encourage folks to see the fantastic thing about the hunt.

“It’s the primary time that one thing has been revealed positively about seal searching,” mentioned Menge, referring to earlier campaigns which have portrayed the follow negatively.

From left to proper, Yoanis Menge, Ruben Komangapik, Ruben’s daughter Aija Komangapik and Philip Anguratsiaq stand subsequent to their automobile on a hunt. (Submitted by Yoanis Menge)

Part of the purpose of this initiative is to do away with some stereotypes about searching and to reconcile with completely different conventional methods of searching, says Komangapik.

“We’re simply not speaking, we’re truly doing the actions of reconciliation (between) the sealing trade, the animalist and all these those that (hunt) the seal the mistaken method. They made an enormous, large rift between the South and the North seal hunters,” mentioned Komangapik.

“We begin with that imaginative and prescient of one thing and we make it actual … We’re working day-after-day with our coronary heart.”

He says the hunt is made additional particular when he and Menge can trade information on searching as they’re out on the land.

WATCH | Aija Komangapik explains how the undertaking promotes reconciliation:

Shared seal hunt traditions focus of reconciliation undertaking

Inuit artist Aija Komangapik says Reconseal Inuksiuti, a co-operative of Indigenous and non-Indigenous seal hunters who present nation meals for Inuit in Ottawa, helps the city group join to its roots and goals to promote reconciliation.

Merging Indigenous and non-Indigenous traditions

“Both cultures have their very own methods of coping with the seal. So the wonder is the place we’re taking each cultures to make it occur,” mentioned Komangapik.

He says seal searching has completely different rules in Nunavut in contrast to the Magdalen Islands, the place hunters have to comply with a three-step program.

LISTEN | Komangapik and Menge speak in regards to the intiative with Breakaway’s Alison Brunette:

17:25A collaboration between Magdalen Islands seal hunters and Inuit organizations in Ottawa brings fresh seal meat to the group

Reconseal Inuksiuti Project – How artwork and seal searching fostered a friendship between a Magdalen Islander and an artist from Nunavut. Their initiative goals to have fun Indigenous and non-Indigenous searching practices whereas providing seal meat to the Inuit inhabitants in Ottawa.

Komangapik famous that he and Menge selected to hunt on the Magdalen Islands due to the wholesome seal inhabitants and since they needed to keep away from taking seals from Inuit in Nunavut.

“There’s a very large meals insecurity up there and to take the animals from up there to down South, it is sort of like taking the meals away from the North,” mentioned Komangapik.

It ‘tastes like happiness’: Positive suggestions from Inuit in Ottawa

Woman stands smiling holding a plate of food
Former member of the Legislative Assembly of Northwest Territories, Manitok Thompson, served fresh seal on the opening of opening of Annie Pootoogook Park in 2021. (Submitted by Yoanis Menge)

Menage says it is “lovely” to see what has come out of this undertaking — serving to reconnect Inuit with conventional meals and offering studying alternatives.

“It offers an actual contact with the tradition, with the meals, with what the seal is about,” mentioned Menge.

“We maintain the pelts and there is an academic program that exhibits youthful folks with elders how to clear the skins, how to tan it, how to sew.”

After the catch is distributed to native Inuit organizations, such because the Isaruit Inuit Arts in Ottawa, the tender and iron-rich meat might be eaten raw, cooked and even barbecued.

Two people sit smiling, working on seal skins
Maxime Chevrier and Aija Komangapik work on the gray seal pelts. (Submitted by Yoanis Menge)

Beverly Illauq, the centre co-ordinator at Isaruit, says “the adage that nothing is wasted by Inuit is true.”

She says meals represents an “anchor for cultural expression.”

“We have to notice that there are roughly 6,000 Inuit dwelling in Ottawa … And roughly 60 per cent are homeless,” mentioned Illauq. “Even simply the odor of salt air for Inuit is … a centring sort of factor.”

Komangapik says, for him, seal meat “tastes like happiness” and reminds him of his childhood.

“Seal looking for me, it is like bread and butter,” mentioned Komangapik. “It has at all times been my most important staple of meals.”


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