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Gjoa Haven festival commemorates finding of Erebus and Terror

'We're having a chance to learn throat signing, try drum dancing and singing, to have Inuit tattoos and to really celebrate Inuit culture.'

Community members celebrate with music, feasts and singing

A fashion show in the community featured both modern and traditional clothes on the models. (Mark Stoller)

A festival to commemorate the discoveries of the historic wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror are in full swing in Gjoa Haven.

Through the guardian program, the community plays a big role with the shipwrecks, which are now part a national historic site.

"We have Inuit from Gjoa Haven, who are at the two shipwrecks to assist the monitoring and protection of the two shipwrecks," said Tamara Tarasoff, project manager, Wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror National Historic Site.

We're having a chance to learn throat signing, try drum dancing and singing.- Tamara Tarasoff, with HMS Erebus and HMS Terror National Historic Site

The Umiyaqtutt Festival started Aug. 25 and since then have been days and nights of activities, music, feasts and singing.

On Monday was a fashion show with traditional and modern clothing and Thursday night was about Inuit empowerment, Tarasoff said.

"We're having a chance to learn throat signing, try drum dancing and singing, to have Inuit tattoos and to really celebrate Inuit culture," she said.

"Every single day of this week we have elder seamstresses who are working on wall hangings."

Inuit games and nights of singing and drum dancing are part of the Umiyaqtutt Festival in Gjoa Haven. (Barbara Okpik)

The diversity of activities came about because of the grassroots effort by the people of Gjoa Haven, Tarasoff said.

Mayor Joanni Sallerina said the festival came at a good time for the hamlet, which is recovering from the loss of six community members in unrelated incidents this month.

"We have to move forward and try and get the people together, try and do some activities so people are not being sad at home alone," he said.

"They are able to go public and talk to friends, families, eat together and try and enjoy what we have left."

On Saturday there will be a music talent show, Sunday a baseball game with Team Terror vs. Team Erebus, and the events wrap up with a traditional feast prepared by the cooks of Gjoa Haven and a dance.

With files from Toby Otak

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