FEA­TURED FEL­LOW: JOHNNY IS­SALUK

Canadian Geographic - - YOUR SOCIETY - —A.P.

Johnny Is­saluk hasn’t done ev­ery­thing, but it’s on his list. In ad­di­tion to act­ing on screen and stage, Is­saluk, who lives in Iqaluit, is also an ac­com­plished ath­lete with 20 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence com­pet­ing in and coach­ing tra­di­tional Inuit games, a mo­ti­va­tional speaker, and a men­tor to youth in the Arc­tic and be­yond. He at­tributes his suc­cess to a life­long de­sire to learn new skills and over­come his own fears.

On be­ing a global am­bas­sador for Inuit cul­ture

I used to be ex­tremely shy. Once, when I was re­ally ner­vous about a gig mod­el­ling tra­di­tional cloth­ing, a friend of mine said, “Johnny, it’s not about you, you know that, right? It’s about the peo­ple who made the cloth­ing, who hunted the an­i­mal, who cleaned the skin, who sewed the jacket.” It just blew me away, and I went from be­ing shy to be­ing proud of who I rep­re­sent. Ev­ery time I’m in front of the cam­era, I’m speak­ing from my peo­ple, from my an­ces­tors. I’m a proud Inuk, a proud Cana­dian.

On set­ting a pos­i­tive ex­am­ple for youth

Part of how I de­fine suc­cess is tied to my love of in­spir­ing peo­ple, es­pe­cially youth, to do what­ever they dream about do­ing, even the things that ter­rify them. I’m ter­ri­fied of heights, but I’ve jumped out of an air­plane on my own. I’m claus­tro­pho­bic and ter­ri­fied of drown­ing, but I’m a scuba diver — I’m ac­tu­ally part of the Sedna ex­pe­di­tion team that’s go­ing to dive and snorkel the North­west Pas­sage start­ing in 2020. I snow­board, I’m a writer, I’m a poet, I’m a pain­ter, I’m a car­pen­ter, I’m a me­chanic — all these things I’m not 100 per cent per­fect at but I can do be­cause I’ve tried. My drive, with all that learn­ing, is to show kids that you can do any­thing if you put your mind to it. I do that as a way to give back what was given to me. Knowl­edge ul­ti­mately is not mine to keep, so I share it as much as I can.

On en­cour­ag­ing Cana­di­ans to see the North

Come up and see the Arc­tic. Get an un­der­stand­ing of why we live the way we do and why we choose to live up there. It’s beau­ti­ful. It’s serene. You go five min­utes out­side the com­mu­nity and you’re in a ther­a­peu­tic en­vi­ron­ment. I’d love to teach that more, even within our com­mu­ni­ties: just go for a walk and you’re free. So for any­one who wants to un­der­stand or see the Arc­tic, come up. Every­body’s go­ing to wel­come you in.

Is­saluk in AMC’S The Ter­ror.

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