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Historic Iqaluit Bowhead Hunt Delivers

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Iqaluit's first bowhead whale hunt in a century has yielded its fruit, a 70-tonne, 14-meter-long specimen that will feed hundreds of Inuit people.

It was Iqaluit’s first bowhead hunt in a century, conducted on Frobisher Bay by a dozen hunters in six boats. Friends, family and Iqaluit Mayor Madeleine Redfern saw the group off on August 15, CBC News reported. The event rekindles a tradition that had been put on hold by fears that the animals, which Inuit have hunted for centuries, were not numerous enough to withstand a hunt. But in recent years Canadian officials had determined that there were enough whales to grant permits for a limited harvest. Other hunts have been held in recent years, such as last year’s out of Pond Inlet (photo), but keeping the tradition alive in Iqaluit held special meaning.

Residents of Nunavut’s capital honked their horns in jubilation as the news spread via word of mouth and its modern equivalent, social media, the Nunatsiaq News reported. The news gave Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. President Cathy Towntongie goose bumps and prompted a statement from Nunavut Member of Parliament (MP) Leona Aglukkaq, who is also the Minister of Health and Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, who said she had been “pleased to be able to brag about our great hunters” at an Edmonton event she was attending when she heard about the catch.

“It's obvious, both from speaking with community members and watching footage on TV, that this historic event has brought a sense of pride and excitement to everyone who is fortunate enough to be a part of it,” she said in her statement. “From elders to young children, this shared experience is a special memory that will be talked about for generations to come.”

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The hunt was captained by Solomon Awa and Pitseolak Alainga, the Nunatsiaq News reported. They and their team spotted the whale about an hour after setting out on the evening of August 15. Harpooner Lucassie Peter took the lead, and the whale was killed with three thrusts administered by him and his hunters, the newspaper said. The animal was then towed to Upirngivialuralak for butchering, as Iqaluit prepared for a celebratory feast.

“It’s wonderful to be Inuk,” Towntongie told the Nunatsiaq News. “It was so emotional, the history of it—the fact that it’s been 100 years.”