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Nunavut Arctic College revamps guide training curriculum
Northern News Services
Published Monday, May 23, 2011
"GPS wasn't invented, there is a necessity for wilderness first aid and something more relevant for the North," said wilderness consultant Wes Werbowy of the old program.
He taught the three-week-long bilingual course this month to five students along with established Pangnirtung-based outfitter Joavee Alivatuk.
Alivatuk said he feels the positions of guides and outfitters are a "dying occupation" even though they are needed in the territory.
During the course, students learned many things, including what a guide does and what an outfitter does, how to approach tourism, how to be prepared and the regulations surrounding the profession.
Student Morrey Allen Palluq said he sees this as a great opportunity to expand his job prospects.
"There's a cultural school being built, lots of qallunaat coming to town," he said.
He currently works as a casual guard at the RCMP detachment.
Along with Palluq, Sandra Aipellee, Eddie Arreak, Andy Arreak and Jerry Natanine also took part in the course.
Part of the course was about how to act ethically and responsibly and according to the laws of Nunavut.
"A guide has to see it through the eyes of their guest, symbols mean vastly different things to different perceptions. What is commonplace and acceptable in the North may turn an eco-tourist's experience into a nightmare," Werbowy said.
Students did a written exam and were tested on their abilities, leadership qualities, customer service, attitude and strengths on the land.
He said not all students will pass and that it is not a failure but a sign they are not quite yet ready.
If they successfully complete this course, students can take an outfitters' course.
The instructors took the students about 48 to 64 km out of town to Tasittannak for several days where they faced bad weather with blowing snow and white-out conditions.
Here, Natanine said the group learned how to make iglus, do camp cooking, organize activities and navigate on unknown terrain with no trail, using a map, compass and GPS from one checkpoint to another.
"I learned how to survive and take care of the land," Eddie Arreak said.
He added it is important to combine modern technology with Inuit traditional knowledge.
The lone lady taking the course was Aipellee.
She said she wanted to take the program to know what to do if she has to survive on the land, and a second reason that was slightly more personal.
"I have a son to teach and he doesn't have a father to teach him that," she said.
Despite being the only female, Aipellee said the gentlemen helped her, providing positive encouragement.
"I want more girls to go for it because you really miss out on opportunities to meet people coming in from other communities and provinces," she said.
Alivatuk is off to Arctic Bay to teach the course starting on May 17 and Werbowy is going to Iglulik later in the month.
All the students said they agreed the program was beneficial for them.
"It's a great program and we love it," Natanine said.