From making pitsi to lighting a qulliq, parks program teaches traditional Inuit skills

This week participants are gathering by the river to learn how to sample fish and make ‘pitsi’, which is dried Arctic char.

Programs prove popular at Iqaluit’s Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park

'I came out here to learn about Inuit culture,' says 13-year-old Angela Idlout-Casey ,who came to the workshop with her mom Valerie Idlout and little sister Kyana. (Sima Sahar Zerehi/CBC)

It's a beautiful sunny day in Iqaluit with endless blue skies after days of rain and fog, which is ideal for the crowd gathering by the river at Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park to learn how to sample and dry Arctic char.

The Government of Nunavut's weekly summer program which started on June 22, runs every Tuesday afternoon until Aug. 23.

This week participants are gathering by the river to learn how to sample fish and make 'pitsi,' or dried Arctic char. (Sima Sahar Zerehi/CBC)
This week participants are gathering by the river to learn how to sample fish and make 'pitsi,' the local dialect's word for dried Arctic char. The workshop is a joint effort with Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

"It's awesome," says 13-year-old Angela Idlout-Casey, who came to the workshop with her mom and little sister.

"I came out here to learn about Inuit culture because it's really interesting to me what people do with fish and whales and all this food."

'Connected to the outdoors'

'This program is important because it gives community members different skill sets to be outdoors and be connected to the outdoors,' says Leesee Papatsie. (Sima Sahar Zerehi/CBC)
The program includes various hands-on workshops such as how to make a traditional knife or ulu, how to tie knots, and how to cook on the land.

"This program is important because it gives community members different skill sets to be outdoors and be connected to the outdoors," says Leesee Papatsie, Nunavut Parks' heritage appreciation manager.

"Also it makes them learn some of the Inuit culture that we have to offer."

This year's workshop on how to sample fish and make pitsi has been the most popular to date. (Sima Sahar Zerehi/CBC)
The program, which is now in its second year, has been a success when the weather has co-operated, she says.

Last year the most popular workshop was the traditional walk which included lessons on traditional plants and their uses in Inuit culture.

This year the workshop on how to light a qulliq (a traditional oil lamp) and how to sample fish and make pitsi have been the most popular to date, she says.

'We get to gut fish'

'It’s not all about science, we get to gut fish, and in the end we get to eat the fish,' says aquatic science technician, Sileema Angoyuak. (Sima Sahar Zerehi/CBC)
For aquatic science technician Sileema Angoyuak, the workshop on sampling fish is a chance to showcase her expertise.

Wearing her white lab coat, Angoyuak deftly measures, weighs and guts an Arctic char, all the time explaining what scientists can learn about fish stock and their environment from what they find inside their stomachs.

"This helps to determine the stock population and how healthy it can be, it's important to know if fish are increasing or declining in water bodies throughout Nunavut," she says while weighing the char.

"I'm very interested in showing people what kind of job I do and how fun it could be.

"It's not all about science, we get to gut fish, and in the end we get to eat the fish or give it away to an elders home or a women's shelter."

About the Author

Sima Sahar Zerehi

Sima Sahar Zerehi is a reporter with CBC North. She started her career in journalism with the ethnic press working for a Canadian-based Farsi language newspaper. Her CBC journey began as a regular commentator with CBC radio's Metro Morning. Since then she's worked with CBC in Montreal, Toronto and now Iqaluit.