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  • Writer's pictureEryn

The Northwest Passage - People of the Arctic

A girl in a purple jacket lifts her white wolfdog puppy in Sachs Harbor of the Canadian Arctic
A girl and her wolfdog puppy in Sachs Harbor, Canada

I could never imagine myself living in the Arctic, for it hardly seems possible! Summers here are spent in snowy weather and the sun doesn't provide much warmth like other places on Earth. Winters, on the other hand, are not spent very differently but blizzards, storms, and even heavier snow become more frequent. A part of this season is even spent in twenty-four hours of complete darkness! Even in such an unusual environment, humans have settled in it and are thriving with their unique culture that we were lucky enough to experience.

One of the communities we came across during our journey through the Arctic were the people of Sachs Harbor in Canada. They kept dogs that were partially wolves to guard their homes as well as to accompany some of the locals who still hunt like their ancestors before them. Their school is a small building, quite similar to the size of a house, and has a total of nine students as one of the local children told us. Kindergarteners and tenth graders alike all learn together in one room with one teacher.

After a while of isolation from civilization with time spent observing the wildlife of the Arctic, we next came into human contact when we visited a Russian town of Provideniya, where there were also dogs roaming around. Traveling in little gangs, the strays had a tough and rugged demeanor, but their playful nature surfaced when they came across the local children. Wagging their tails, they wound around them and chased the kids playfully. A couple even leaped up to wrestle with one of the children!

Four kids in colorful jackets stand together for a photo in Provideniya, Russia
The children of the Russian town of Provideniya getting together for a photo

Later, as we continued through the Arctic, it was not planned for us to encounter more humans on this particular excursion in the Russian Penkigney Bay. By chance, however, we were able to meet some nomadic reindeer herders who were herding the reindeer that had brought us here. Driving enormous military-grade vehicles into the water and around the surrounding hills, the reindeer were these people's livelihoods. In addition to being their primary source of food, the animals were also what they used to trade for necessities like sugar and flour in town.

A reindeer herder sits in his green military vehicle and uses a satellite phone in Pekingney Bay, Russia
A reindeer herder in his military vehicle by the reindeer herds in Penkigney Bay, Russia

The next time we encountered people, it was indeed intended for us to visit the people of the Russian town of Yanrakynnot which was full of dogs! Every doorstep, every corner, every road had at least one dog. We walked around seeing dog after dog and greeting some of the cheerful locals that sat around in front of their houses. Cheeky little boys followed us around on our tour of their town and even imitated my dad as he took photos, lifting their hands and squeezing them together, taking photos with "cameras" too.

A group of dogs line up before the the scenery of yellow grass, blue seas, and purplish mountains at Yanrakynnot, Russia
A group of dogs guarding the entrance to the Russian town of Yanrakynnot

After meeting the people of the Arctic, I am humbled by their endurance and left with an appreciation for their beautiful culture that has been passed down throughout their generations. They live off of the very Arctic itself, and alongside their families and wolfdogs, form communities that are remarkably perhaps one of the most separated from the ever-growing modern civilizations of Earth.


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