Torngat Mountains National Park marks 10th anniversary
Labrador park name comes from Inuktitut word 'torngait', which means 'place of spirits'
A national park in a distant corner of the country that highlights the ancestral lands and culture of the Inuit is celebrating its tenth anniversary.
This month marks ten years since the establishment of Torngat Mountains National Park in northern Labrador, and it's a proud milestone for staff, visitors, and people from the Inuit region of Nunatsiavut.
Covering 9,700 square kilometres of epic mountainous terrain on the northern tip of Labrador, Torngat Mountains National Park Reserve was created December 1, 2005, when the Labrador Inuit Land Claims agreement came into effect. It gained full national park status in 2008.
The Inuit presence in the Torngat Mountains goes back thousands of years. At the park guides show visitors traditional hunting and gathering places, while other staff teach and perform cultural traditions, like throat-singing demonstrations. Parks Canada aims to have Torngat Mountains National Park fully staffed by Inuit by the end of the year.
Baikie came on board in 2006. "For me personally, I'm in love with the place," he added. "It's surreal to be able to come here, work here, and get paid for it."
The park base camp is equipped with an electric fence to keep out the bears, and armed bear guards accompany visitors on every hike or excursion outside the camp.
'Place of spirits'
Along with the natural beauty, the Inuit who visit and work for the park are always thrilled to explain their cultural connection to their ancestral homeland. The name Torngat comes from the Inuktitut word "torngait", which means "place of spirits".
"It is important because I love to be around family, because this is where my family belongs," he added. "They were born here and everything else, and I think this just needs to be going on."
Nancy Kooktook agrees. She first visited the park in 2012 as a cultural performer, and started working in the Torngats for Parks Canada the year after.
"It's always good to be here. It feels like home," she said. "It connects to my grandfather's background, so I like coming here."
To ensure an Inuit influence on the park's management and operation, Parks Canada and the Nunatsiavut government appointed a seven-member co-operative management board to advise the federal government.