Inuit life­style film picked up by Na­tional Geo­graphic

Rigo­let hunter/artist strug­gles to keep cul­ture alive


An Ad­ven­ture Canada film about a Nu­natsi­avut hunter and artist has been fea­tured by the Na­tional Geo­graphic Short Film Show­case.

“Inuit were born to be out­side,” in­tones the voiceover on the trailer to “Keeper of the Flame” se­lected by Na­tional Geo­graphic for the show­case this past sum­mer. “My ear­li­est mem­o­ries of grow­ing up with my fam­ily was con­nected to the land. Us­ing dog teams, skin tents, kayaks, you lived on the land; you took what you needed.”

The voice should be a fa­mil­iar one to many in Labrador.

Der­rick Pot­tle was born, raised and still lives in Rigo­let when he’s not out on the land or guid­ing for Ad­ven­ture Canada, a com­pany that spe­cial­izes in Arc­tic and Antarc­tic cruises.

The film, by Ja­son Van Bruggen, is a stark and com­pelling de­pic­tion of the tra­di­tional Inuit way of life that Pot­tle is do­ing his best to pre­serve against out­side nat­u­ral and po­lit­i­cal pres­sures, such as cli­mate change and bans on seal­skins and other marine mam­mal prod­ucts. That is why he agreed to do the film in the first place.

“My main rea­son is just to bring aware­ness to our life­style and . . . let the world know that when peo­ple go out and make de­ci­sions and protest and try to dis­rupt peo­ple’s lives, the to­tal im­pact that it has on com­mu­ni­ties and peo­ple’s lives,” he told The Labrado­rian.

Van Bruggen was at­tracted to Pot­tle’s story for the same rea­son and thought he made a great am­bas­sador for the Inuit com­mu­nity.

“I felt it was im­por­tant to cap­ture Der­rick’s story and share it with the world be­cause it was a first-hand per­spec­tive that

“At one time peo­ple could make 30 and 40 thou­sand dol­lars a year by sell­ing seal­skins, now you can barely sell a seal­skin any­more.”

Der­rick Pot­tle

looked at the story of cli­mate change and cul­ture change in the north from an emo­tional, per­sonal and com­mu­ni­ty­based per­spec­tive rather than the more com­mon sci­en­tific or aca­demic per­spec­tive,” he said via email. “Peo­ple are in­un­dated with fac­tual ar­gu­ments from peo­ple that might not even be ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the first-hand ef­fects of these changes in a pro­found way.”

Pot­tle noted the pace change makes it dif­fi­cult keep youth en­gaged.

“There is in­ter­est into (the tra­di­tional life­style) but the de­pen­dency isn’t what it used to be be­cause of the bans on seal­skins and other marine mam­mal prod­ucts, that to­tally im­pacted peo­ple’s lives. At one time peo­ple could make $30$40,000 of to a year by sell­ing seal­skins, now you can barely sell a seal­skin any­more.”

Out­side in­flu­ences can also con­sume time, and de­tract from par­tic­i­pa­tion in tra­di­tional ac­tiv­i­ties.

In his own life­time, Pot­tle has seen north­ern Labrador com­mu­ni­ties change; from not even hav­ing elec­tric power to hav­ing all the mod­ern con­ve­niences and dis­trac­tions of the world at large.

“In a very short pe­riod of time, our life has changed pretty much the same as ev­ery­where else, all over the world,” Pot­tle said. “What the out­side world has in re­gards of tech­nol­ogy and mod­ern ad­vance­ments, we have all of that in the com­mu­ni­ties, ex­cept that we’re iso­lated.”

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