Nunavut hunter's caribou giveaway prompts flood of online love for elders

When a Nunavut hunter decided to give away the meat of a whole caribou to one lucky elder in the Baffin region, a flood of love and support for elders poured out on Facebook.

'I just wanted to do something for the elders ... I know they're craving for caribou meat'

Johnny Mamgark, a hunter from Arviat, Nunavut, is giving away his caribou meat to one lucky elder today. (submitted by Johnny Mamgark)

UPDATE: The winners for the giveaway were Joannie and Annie Ikkidluak of Kimmirut, Simeonie Qaunirq of Iqaluit, and Elaiya Mangitak of Cape Dorset. Two other local hunters donated their caribou meat for the giveaway since it started, so there were three prizes. 

Christmas will come early for one lucky elder in Nunavut today.

That's thanks to one hunter from Arviat, Nunavut, who decided he was going to give away the meat of a whole caribou — on Facebook.

On Monday night, Johnny Mamgark decided to go down to his porch and snap a few photos of his weekend caribou catch.

"I took the pictures and posted it it on Iqaluit Sell/Swap [Facebook group], and right after I posted, I received a call from Arctic Bay, an elder," he said.

The conversation with the elder, who was asking about the meat but unable to afford it, got Mamgark feeling "really guilty," he said.

"I felt so bad, so I decided to think of what I can do to help some elders in Baffin."

Facebook giveaway a Nunavut hit

He quickly changed his post from "For sale" to "Free" and asked for pictures and names of elders for a caribou-meat draw:

Johnny Mamgark's Facebook post. 'Tuktu' means caribou in Inuktitut. (CBC)

"I don't know what I was doing, but I just put it up," he said.

The response was unexpected.

"I thought I was going to get like maybe 100 elders, but actually it surprised me."

As of Wednesday morning, there were more than 600 responses to his post — a majority of them photos celebrating Nunavut's elders and an outpouring of encouraging comments for Mamgark:

Hannah Kadloo submitted this photo in the draw, captioned 'my lovely grandmother Attagotak Ipeelee, Arctic Bay.' (Facebook)
Marnie Tatty posted this photo of Ako Kownirk in Iqaluit. (Facebook)
Pootoogoo Toonoo posted this photo of Nuvalinga Kingwatsiak from Cape Dorset. (Facebook)
This photo is of Kaujak Pauloosie in Arctic Bay was posted on Facebook by Vera Pauloosie. (Facebook)
Michel Oolateeta posted a photo of his grandparents Peter and Joanna Oolateeta from Pond Inlet, Nunavut. (Facebook)

"Christmas is just around the corner," said Mamgark.

He said he particularly wanted to help out an elder in the Baffin region where caribou meat is scarce.

"I just wanted to do something for the elders," said Mamgark. "I know they're craving for caribou meat in Baffin."

Selling meat online 'not my thing'

Mamgark said that selling meat on Facebook "is not my thing."

"I hate doing it, but when you're unemployed, there's something you have to do to support yourself and family, I guess," he said. 

"I got grandkids and kids that come to me almost every other day, asking for money." 

Traditionally, Inuit share meat. Commercial sales were unheard of until recently. A growing trend in the North to sell traditional meat online has caused some concern among wildlife managers. 

Under the Nunavut land claim, Inuit have the right to "sell, barter, exchange and give" game that's lawfully harvested. There are no harvesting restrictions on caribou in the Arviat area. 

'Friendliest community' in Nunavut

Mamgark said his community has come together to support his idea.

Other hunters expressed interest in doing the same thing, and women in the community are getting together to help pay for the freight.

Leah Kipsigak posted a selfie with her father, Ammie Kipsigak, to the Facebook giveaway. (Facebook)

"There were some posts last night that were actually saying, 'We're going to do a sale, I'm gonna sell a jacket, I'm gonna sell a parka, we'll pay the freight.'"

Mamgark was unsurprised by the response because he thinks "Arviat is the friendliest community."

"If you haven't been to Arviat, you haven't seen anything yet," he said. "When we want to do something, we do it. Like we get together and make it happen.

"In Arviat, everything's possible."

Mamgark said he planned to draw the winner's name out of a bag with the help of his grandchildren.

With files from Juanita Taylor and Loren McGinnis