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A very special place
Parks Canada hires Paulatuk residents for Tuktut Nogait National Park tours

Kassina Ryder
Northern News Services
Monday, August 24, 2015

Centuries ago, someone made a small seat out of a rock outside a tent in what is now Tuktut Nogait National Park. For Paulatuk resident Ruben Green, getting the chance to sit in that exact same spot hundreds of years later is one of the most wonderful things about the park.

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Ruben Green takes a break at base camp at One Island Lake during a trip to Tuktut Nogait National Park in 2014. Parks Canada is hiring Green and other Paulatuk residents to facilitate camping trips in the park. - photos courtesy of Maya March

NNSL photo/graphic

Visitors sit near La Ronciere Falls during a trip to Tuktut Nogait National Park in 2014.

"You can just sit down there and go beside a tent ring and there is a block that's kind of completely square and it's only two feet tall," he said. "You can sit where he or she sat and that's really special."

Green travelled to Tuktut Nogait as a wildlife monitor during a Parks Canada tour from Aug. 3 to Aug. 7. The trip is part of Parks Canada's new Northern Iconic Experiences program, which was launched last year to promote tourism in northern parks, according to Parks Canada.

This is the third year Parks Canada has facilitated the trip, said Tuktut Nogait's manager Maya March.

This summer's travellers consisted of three members of the media from Canadian Geographic, APTN and Explore magazine, and one visitor from Burlington, Ont.

March said the goal was to get the word out about Parks Canada's trips into Tuktut Nogait.

"If people know it's there, they'll come," she said.

Five residents of Paulatuk were hired as wildlife monitors, cultural hosts, cooks and packing and clean-up crew.

Having people from the area sharing their knowledge about the land makes the trip unique, March said.

"That's the real difference on these trips, you're walking with the people who know the land," she said. "It's a totally different experience."

Ruben and cultural host John Max Muffa Kudlak said the park's archaeological sites are as captivating for themselves as they are for visitors.

There are more than 500 sites in Tuktut Nogait, March said. Some date back more than 1,000 years.

Showing participants examples of ancient tools that would have been used at the sites is a particular highlight of the trip, Kudlak said.

As a hunter, Kudlak said he is able to explain how little tools such as harpoons and uluit have changed over the years.

"We had some artifacts that we brought from the Parks office here and showed them the tools that were used at that time and to compare it to today's," he said. "Some of the beluga harpoon heads, the designs haven't changed, just the materials that they didn't have available at the time. They didn't really modify it much."

In addition to Tuktut Nogait's human history, the landscape is another big draw, March said.

While this summer's trip took place at a different location, base camp is usually located at One Island Lake, near the Brock River canyon, she said.

Visitors can expect to see dramatic canyons and rivers, as well as a variety of birds and wildlife such as golden eagles, peregrine falcons, tundra swans, caribou, muskoxen and wolves.

"The landscape itself is a main attractant of the trip, this is for people who really want a true Arctic experience" March said.

The park is also home to trout, Arctic char and Arctic grayling, she added. Because they eat freshwater shrimp, March said flesh of trout within the park is orange.

"The fishing is a big highlight for those who want to fish," she said.

While the park itself is worth the journey, March said visitors report that spending time on the land with Inuvialuit is by far the most popular aspect of the trip.

Local staff are chosen in collaboration with the Paulatuk Hunters and Trappers Committee and trips are planned with the park's management board, which is made up of Inuvialuit members and members appointed by the federal and territorial governments. Both Kudlak and Green are former members of the board.

"It's really successful," March said. "We do everything in collaboration with the community in this park."

The trips also provide seasonal jobs to Paulatuk residents, March added. In a community of only 300 people, five jobs can have a big impact, she said.

The trip costs $3,950 and includes flights in and out of the park from Inuvik and most equipment.

Ruben said its isolation is part of what makes the park so exceptional.

"It's probably one of the least known parks in Canada. When we have clients that do come up there, it really touches them," he said. "Not many people will see the things that we see up there."

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