“We live in the modern world, but we try to incorporate our traditional lifestyle as much as we can.”
On a June afternoon in the Nunavut hamlet of Cambridge Bay, the streets are quiet, bar the occasional pickup truck tearing down the main strip—grocery store, church, bank, post office—kicking up gravel as it goes. The sun is high, the glare off the snow on the ground bright. At this time of year, so close to the summer equinox, it will stay this light day and night. A biting wind comes in off the water, cold enough to make you hurry to wherever you’re going, but nothing compared to the -60°C the winter will bring.
Across the road, however, there is a steady stream of people entering through the utilitarian metal doors of Killinik High School. For the last few days, word has been spreading through Cambridge Bay—phone calls, text messages, a post on the town’s bustling Facebook group—and we’re nearing the appointed hour. Inside the library of the high school—which also serves as the lobby for the Kitikmeot Heritage Society—a loosely-organized line up has formed. It’s an informal sort of queue, though, with as many people sitting on nearby risers as those holding their place. You get the sense that when it comes time, the order that you arrived in (and so your number in line to be served) will be honoured. This is too small a place to be stealing your neighbour’s spot in line.
After all, it is a crowd where everyone seems to know each other: the room is loud with conversation, laughter, the giggling of children. It’s mostly women, grey-haired grandmothers standing next to younger women carrying their babies in their amautis. In the middle of the space, five or six long tables have been pushed together. They’re piled high with neatly-folded stacks of fabric—red, blue, green, black, camo.
After several attempts, the waiting group is quieted, and Pamela Gross, the mayor of Cambridge Bay, welcomes everybody gathered, speaking in both English and Inuktituk. A brief round of formalities—don’t forget to take your ticket in the raffle to win a flight from First Air—and suddenly it’s happening: The Canada Goose Resource Center is in full swing.
The premise of a Resource Center is simple: Leftover fabrics and materials from our factories are donated to communities like Pond Inlet and Kuujjuaq, ferried there free of charge by First Air, our longstanding Resource Centre partner. Not only does it cut down on waste in our production process, but it’s also a way for us to give back to the communities who have inspired us with the invention of the parka.
The event—which echoes the frenzy of a sample sale or pop-up—is over in less than thirty minutes. But as everyone lingered, comparing their finds and catching up, we had the chance to talk to some of the locals who were part of the experience.
Anna Kaotalok, Cambridge Bay resident
“Everyone loves to do sewing projects, so everyone is so excited about coming to pick up some material. I have a pair of ski pants that I need some material to do some patching on the knees. I pretty well taught myself, observing and watching other people sew.”
Annie Neglak, Cambridge Bay resident
“I’m going to make new covers for my down-filled parkas. I also do a lot of sewing, mainly for my family. It takes me about a day to make a parka. I’ve been sewing since I was nine years old. My mother taught me.”
Pamela Gross, mayor of Cambridge Bay
“This place is friendly and welcoming. I grew up here, but lived away for a time. I always yearned to come back home. In Cambridge Bay, we live in the modern world, but we try to incorporate our traditional lifestyle as much as we can. We still have people who are seamstresses and we like to pass on our traditional knowledge.”
Shelly DeCaria, community invest manager at First Air
“In a town like Cambridge Bay, you don’t get much material – and if you do, it’s expensive. For a mother to be able to get this fabric for free means she can make parkas for her kids. I’ve been back to communities six months [after a Resource Center event] and I often see [what] they’ve made. They’re just so happy because it’s helping them and helping their family.”
Learn more about the Canada Goose Resource Centres Program here.