It wouldn’t be a stretch to describe Labrador 2015 as the trip of a lifetime. This cultural and landscape immersion took us along the rugged Labrador coast in a passenger ship, saw us living for ten days in the community of Nain, Labrador, and allowed us the privilege of backpacking in the recently formed Torngat Mountains National Park with two Inuit hunters.
Visits with elders and officials gave us insights into the complexities of a history of colonization, and a vast appreciation for the struggles of Labrador Inuit to retain their lifeways through their ancestral relationship with the land and sea. We caught glimpses into the thirty-year land claims struggle, finally resolved with the creation of the Nunatsiavut Government and Torngat Mountains National Park. About our time in Nain, Seth Fineman ’16 noted, “I had the opportunity to witness the great intricacy and interconnectedness of a village.”
We explored the natural history of tundra, learning how plants and animals adapt to climatic extremes and the presence of permafrost. We experienced the bounty of the landscape by fishing and foraging, augmenting many meals with our catch. Tessa Scheele Morelli ’15 commented, “I am reminded of how incredibly fortunate I am to be in this place, how rare an opportunity it is and how special this land is, steeped with cultural significance and natural beauty. I am blessed. Our campsite today is yet another beautiful spot – big, open, bare hills, sprinkled with river beauty…jagged peaks in the background.”
Leadership and expedition skills were paramount as we made our way through untracked landscapes on steep, rocky terrain. Reesey Partlow ’16 commented: “I love the times when we are helping each other to stay safe and rely…on each other for our well-being.”
There were magic moments. The majesty of a caribou emerging from mist, laughter of elders, exhaustion after playing Inuit games, the grandeur of an iceberg. Tessa wrote, of our last day hiking, “This day felt something of a snapshot, a distilled and intensified memento of my experience in this place. It was a day of extremes, where I felt in my body so strong, my spirits riding high, and then again stripped down…facing the unforgiving magnificence of the arctic land and sea and sky. And then, moments later, up on the ridge, a polar bear. Enormous. Beautiful and powerful…like a parting gift. I’d read that the spirit of the Torngats will manifest as a polar bear.