1st female hunting guide in Cambridge Bay an inspiration to family, Inuit women
'All the male guides are pushing me to help me. They're proud of me,' says Pamela Nakashook
"Not only guys can hunt, girls can hunt too."
Pamela Nakashook is the first certified female hunting guide in Nunavut's Kitikmeot region. The 21-year-old, from Cambridge Bay, recently received her Level 1 guide licence — she was the only woman among 14 men in the course.
"And I finished in the top three," she says proudly.
Nakashook always had a connection to the land. Among the youngest of 11 children, she says she was the only one of her siblings interested in hunting.
"I was getting teased growing up for wanting to hunt instead of wanting to do girly stuff. I was told by my brothers that I can't do this and I can't do that."
But her father, who she calls her "best friend," had other plans.
"I was convinced to from my dad," she says. "I was inspired by him, I loved it out there and he talked me into hunting."
In the course, trainees were taught how to build igloos, how to navigate, how to keep their international clients warm, fed and comfortable, and received safety training.
'I look up to her,' says father
Her father, Willy Nakashook, is bursting with so much pride that he grabbed the phone during his daughter's interview with CBC.
"To me, she's so special. I know she looked up to her dad but also, I look up to her," he said. "I'm a proud dad."
Willy started guiding when he was 14 years old. He takes clients, many of whom are Americans, out on the land to hunt muskox, polar bears, wolves and caribou.
"It is really touching for them and for me too, to see these people loving our country, our land and the food," Willy says.
But he says with the guiding industry booming in Cambridge Bay, there was a desire for female guides, so he encouraged his daughter to take the course.
"I told her you should consider trying guide training. She's one of the most special women in this world," he says.
He says she's small, at only 5'2", but she can tough it out on the land.
"I hope that in this whole world, in Nunavut, she can make inspiration for other Inuit women to try and be a guide."
Role model for daughter, women
Nunavut's environment department confirmed that of the approximately 80 certified guides and outfitters in the territory, there is only one other woman, in Arctic Bay.
As a single mother to a two-year-old, Pamela Nakashook says she wants to be a role model to her daughter and other Inuit women.
"I want my daughter to learn to provide for herself," she says.
"And let her know that you don't need a man to go get yourself some tuktu [caribou] meat and muskox meat or fish and birds. You don't need a man to get traditional food."
She says it makes her proud to inspire other women.
"I got a lot of compliments from other ladies in the community that they want to take guide training now."
Bobby Greenley, chairman of the Ekaluktutiak Hunters and Trappers Organization in Cambridge Bay, says Nakshook has done "very well."
"She's probably got more time out on the land than a lot of people here."
He says the community sees a lot of female sport hunters coming up north, and he hopes more women will sign up to become guides.
"I think it's awesome. They shouldn't be treated any different," Greenley says.
"It doesn't matter, male, female — the more we have involved, the better for the community."
Greenley thinks Nakashook will go far in the field, which provides a good income for many in Cambridge Bay.
"It's nice to see that she's excited about it and cares about it. It's the way she was brought up. Her family's really nice and they're really knowledgeable on the land."
Nakashook's goal now is for her and her father to follow in the footsteps of her grandfather and hunt polar bear with a dog team.
For the next couple of years Nakashook will be a helper to senior guides, gaining experience until she can take the next level training.
"All the male guides are pushing me to help me. They're proud of me, like they have my back."
With files from Peter Sheldon