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The melting of the sea ice near Broughton Island.

Caribou in the Koroc River Valley, Torngat Mountains.

Exploring the Planet

John Amagoalik

My first foreign trip had to do with the Ethiopian famine of 1984. It was estimated at the time that Inuit from Northern Canada gave more money per capita than anybody else in Canada or around the world to the famine relief. When we saw images on television, it was something that we could identify with: Inuit knew what starvation and famines were, and they felt very strongly about trying to help these people. Because of this remarkable generosity, Inuit leaders were invited to Ethiopia where we spent ten days. I especially remember the suffering, the starvation, and the incredible poverty in that country. It certainly made me appreciate Canada more.
In Chapter Twelve, John talks about his many travels. He recalls a trip to Ethiopia during the famine in 1984, to Moscow—about six months before the Soviet Union collapsed—where he met with representatives of Russian Native Peoples, to Rome, Sweden, Denmark, Paris—at the invitation of President Chirac—who awarded him the medal of Chevalier of the Legion of Honour, to Australia and the United States. He talks about his impressions of these different places and of the people he met there. He speaks about Michèle Therrien, a Quebecer who teaches Inuktitut in Paris. He comes back to the Jacques Chirac’s declarations of support to Quebec sovereignists. As well, he talks about a trip he made to Alaska to organize the first Inuit Circumpolar Conference. He recounts the efforts he made for the Soviet government to allow the Inuit of that country to take part in the international conferences. He talks about the differences between the Inuit of Canada, the United States and Greenland, and speaks about the cultural exchanges that took place among the three groups. He tells about the importance the Inuit give to their community and regional identities. He also speaks about syllabic writing, its history and the difficulties Inuit young people have learning it. He closes by talking about his love of hunting and nature, and their importance in the lives of the Inuit.