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Living in Canada's Arctic

Updated on February 19, 2012

My Life in Arviat, Nunavut, Canada

I moved to Arviat, Northwest Territories, in 1994 when my oldest daughter was only 3 weeks old. I never anticipated still living in Arviat 18 years later - much less with this part of the territory being changed to Nunavut - but such is the way life has turned out.

I live with temperatures that would make most people shudder at the mere thought or imagination. I walk to work through storms in which most people would suffocate because our local Northern Store never closes during regular business hours, in spite of a raging storm outside with 60-80 kilometer gusts of wind and zero visibility.

Sometime around Christmas, 2010, a young guy went to one of our stores to buy a few snacks. He didn't return home. Instead his body had been found; he lost his way and froze to death. Though this doesn't happen all the time, it has happened more than once since I've lived in Arviat.

Living in Nunavut has toughened me, physically, and taught me some valuable lessons about life and home - and how neither should be taken for granted - not even for as little as a minute.

Emotionally, I feel I will always be a sentimental sap - which suits me just fine. I couldn't live with my heart and soul being as cold as the winter temperatures. I would miss out on what life is really about.

Come along and join me as I grant you opportunities to marvel at life in Canada's Arctic - and to make you shiver from sheer delight, if not from the penetrating cold.

Photo credit: Nunavut Nurses

Canada's Territories

Feel free to add a little info to your poll selection in the window which will present itself.

If you've lived in either of Canada's territories, I would love to know which territory and which town/s you've lived in and whether or not you still live in Canad's Arctic.

Have you ever lived in either of Canada's territories?

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~ This is good visibility compared to some storms I've walked to work in ~ a 10 minute walk can turn into 30

~ This is good visibility compared to some storms I've walked to work in ~ a 10 minute walk can turn into 30
~ This is good visibility compared to some storms I've walked to work in ~ a 10 minute walk can turn into 30

Take another look at the photo above. How would you feel if you had to leave the safety and comfort of your home to venture out in this weather? Would you do it or would you rather quit your job?

Curious in Arviat, Nunavut

Bear with me for a moment ...

Solely out of curiosity, I would like to ask you one question:

Do you smoke?

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Venturing into Stormy Weather

People leave home in this type of weather - and worse - because they need groceries, want junk food or their cigarettes have run out.

What would get you to voluntarily leave home in such stormy weather conditions?

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Narrow Escape

one of my worst memories

This is written in the third person because it was an article I posted at Helium. I've decided to leave it as it is. Let the true story now begin...

Snow swirled all around the pregnant woman as she plugged her way through four feet of powdered snow. The wind whipped at her from every direction as snow blinded her vision.

Thankfully, a light pole loomed overhead, bringing immediate comfort and warmth despite the frigid cold; she knew she was still near civilization - that she had not wandered onto the desolate plains nearby. There was still a chance that she and her unborn child would survive.

Looking up at the light pole, she could faintly see the beam trying to shine brightly in the night. However, the light was dim and did not illuminate her surroundings as she had hoped. She still had no idea where she was though home had to be nearby; she had recognized a house a few minutes before when the wind stilled momentarily. Now, the snow was swirling with a fury and the wind was pushing her backwards, making her turn away in desperation.

Falling to her knees, she wept quietly. Thinking of her two daughters at home and the love of her life, the father of her unborn child, caused her weeping to turn into heart-wrenching sobs.

She was becoming scared she may not make it after all. There seemed to be little hope. The storm was becoming more violent and passionate than before. It was as if the storm was trying to drain and defeat her energy, her hope and her life.

She debated whether to keep trudging along or to remain where she was. It seemed dangerous to do either: if she went off course, there was no telling where she could end up; if she stayed where she was, she could suffocate in the storm. Neither was an acceptable fate so she stood debating her next course of action, feeling scared and alone, afraid her next decision could be her last.

Putting her hand on her stomach, she whispered, "Lord, please," with as much fervency as she could muster. She knew she did not have to say the words aloud but, somehow, the thought of doing so brought her comfort so she continued. "I will not make any promises because they may only be the words of a desperate mother. I am simply begging you to let me live until my children are grown. Please, let me find my way through this storm. It is becoming so cold and I am feeling so scared, lonely, and forsaken."

She closed her eyes momentarily and opened them to see an animal running toward her. She reacted with panic because she could not tell what it was, only that it was running on four legs. She screamed into the night though the sound did not carry far. Anyone who may have heard would not have known where to look to find the source of the screaming.

As the creature drew closer, she knew it was not a large animal and felt a measure of comfort, but it did not last long; the animal came up and approached her directly, demanding attention. It was playful as a dog might be yet the facial features resembled those of a black bear cub.

Feeling intimidated by the "dog bear" and not knowing what to do for the best, she held out her hand, hoping the animal would sniff it and be comforted. She meant no harm even if she was still screaming hysterically into the stormy night.

The "dog bear" began rolling around on the snow demanding a tummy rub, which she gave without hesitation. At this point, her screams had subsided to soft cries and pleas because, though the animal did not appear to have any intention of harming her, it was still demanding too much of her energy and attention - and she was desperate to continue in her search to find home.

Unexpectedly, the animal turned around and, impulsively, the woman decided to follow. Within seconds, she came to a clearing and recognized where she was; home was only five houses away. She watched the animal as he turned to run in a different direction and was amazed when he vanished from sight.

She walked home at a much quicker pace feeling a level of confidence that had been absent for, what seemed like, forever. She had a renewed sense of purpose and realized just how narrow her escape really was. For the record, she has never seen that animal since.

Please tell me I haven't

scared you away ...

All is not cold and dreary in Nunavut;

I could spend my life in this photo:

Arviat, Nunavut shoreline

Arviat, Nunavut shoreline
Arviat, Nunavut shoreline

Much To See and Do in Arviat

Arviat may not boast trees and waterfalls. It may not boast gardens and fenced in yards where families have barbecues and children play. In Arviat, we may not be able to drive by vehicle to another town but there is so much we can boast about that southerners cannot.

You'll likely find my list to be most interesting but remember these are only points which spring immediately to mind.

  1. After surviving the sub-zero temperatures of winter, when it hits minus 10 degrees Celcius in April, a spring jacket is warm enough.
  2. We appreciate looking through the window and seeing the clouds, whether the sun reveals itself or not.
  3. We can go outside our door, get on an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) or snow machine and drive anywhere in town or on the tundra, weather-permitting.
  4. We can have a fire pit after passing the towns borders without a permit.
  5. During autumn, there is potential of seeing a polar bear walking along the shoreline, waiting for the water of the Hudson Bay to freeze.
  6. We see the northern lights clearly from autumn through winter when the sky is dark. Many people never get the opportunity to see them once.
  7. We can put cabins/cottages on the tundra without requiring a permit. We can drive five minutes out of town and feel like we are on an actual vacation.
  8. Our air is easier to breathe. Though we share the same sky, the colder temperatures up here seem to make the air easier to breathe - except in sub-zero temperatures.
  9. We never fight traffic. We never have long commutes by vehicle to get to work.
  10. We enjoy breath-taking sunrises and sunsets, seeing everything because no trees and mountains hinder our view.
  11. Our children are safe. In my 18 years living in Arviat, no child from this town has been kidnapped. Children play on the road for several hours, often into the wee hours of the morning. I'm not saying that's a good thing but it means there is no fear of danger lurking nearby.
  12. We can see for miles. There is no worry about something surprising us around the next corner.

Arviat at sunset

Arviat at sunset
Arviat at sunset

Just Kelsey and Me

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Kelsey and I were actually on our way to the store - but we got distracted.Kelsey walks along the rocky shoreline. Notice the rundown buildings in the backdrop. Not all buildings are like this, thankfully.I enjoy seagulls - always have. Will I change my mind if one sends droppings down my neck? We'll have to wait and see. Thankfully, that hasn't happened yet either. :)This is looking in the direction of where I work. It is only about a 3 minute walk from this point. My house is about a 5 minutes walk in the opposite direction.Preparing to scour the rocks for hidden treasures - or even snails. Will we find any?Kelsey is having the time of her life as we escape what we are supposed to be doing - shopping. This was a wonderful precursor to the vacation we would be taking a few days later. Honestly, I enjoyed vacation - but this was one of the highlight and wSeagulls are generally found in multiples. Once in a while, I see a seagull flying solo and continuing on its way. I could spend hours watching these birds. I enjoy their graceful nature though, sometimes, they can become quite excited.Seagull in flight - where is he off to next?Caution: slippery when wet! We didn't walk on these rocks which were becoming covered with water. To do so, could have turned a wonderful moment of time into a painful, possibly, treacherous one.Kelp ~ seaweed ~ does line our shores after the tide goes out. The seagulls certainly get their fill in this area. I've seen up to 30 gulls at one in this spot. Sometimes I take my lunch breaks and go to watch the gulls during spring and summer.
Kelsey and I were actually on our way to the store - but we got distracted.
Kelsey and I were actually on our way to the store - but we got distracted.
Kelsey walks along the rocky shoreline. Notice the rundown buildings in the backdrop. Not all buildings are like this, thankfully.
Kelsey walks along the rocky shoreline. Notice the rundown buildings in the backdrop. Not all buildings are like this, thankfully.
I enjoy seagulls - always have. Will I change my mind if one sends droppings down my neck? We'll have to wait and see. Thankfully, that hasn't happened yet either. :)
I enjoy seagulls - always have. Will I change my mind if one sends droppings down my neck? We'll have to wait and see. Thankfully, that hasn't happened yet either. :)
This is looking in the direction of where I work. It is only about a 3 minute walk from this point. My house is about a 5 minutes walk in the opposite direction.
This is looking in the direction of where I work. It is only about a 3 minute walk from this point. My house is about a 5 minutes walk in the opposite direction.
Preparing to scour the rocks for hidden treasures - or even snails. Will we find any?
Preparing to scour the rocks for hidden treasures - or even snails. Will we find any?
Kelsey is having the time of her life as we escape what we are supposed to be doing - shopping. This was a wonderful precursor to the vacation we would be taking a few days later. Honestly, I enjoyed vacation - but this was one of the highlight and w
Kelsey is having the time of her life as we escape what we are supposed to be doing - shopping. This was a wonderful precursor to the vacation we would be taking a few days later. Honestly, I enjoyed vacation - but this was one of the highlight and w
Seagulls are generally found in multiples. Once in a while, I see a seagull flying solo and continuing on its way. I could spend hours watching these birds. I enjoy their graceful nature though, sometimes, they can become quite excited.
Seagulls are generally found in multiples. Once in a while, I see a seagull flying solo and continuing on its way. I could spend hours watching these birds. I enjoy their graceful nature though, sometimes, they can become quite excited.
Seagull in flight - where is he off to next?
Seagull in flight - where is he off to next?
Caution: slippery when wet! We didn't walk on these rocks which were becoming covered with water. To do so, could have turned a wonderful moment of time into a painful, possibly, treacherous one.
Caution: slippery when wet! We didn't walk on these rocks which were becoming covered with water. To do so, could have turned a wonderful moment of time into a painful, possibly, treacherous one.
Kelp ~ seaweed ~ does line our shores after the tide goes out. The seagulls certainly get their fill in this area. I've seen up to 30 gulls at one in this spot. Sometimes I take my lunch breaks and go to watch the gulls during spring and summer.
Kelp ~ seaweed ~ does line our shores after the tide goes out. The seagulls certainly get their fill in this area. I've seen up to 30 gulls at one in this spot. Sometimes I take my lunch breaks and go to watch the gulls during spring and summer.

Shopping in Arviat, Nunavut

Three places of business

Eskimo Point Lumber Supply has undergone a few renovations over the years but is, essentially, still a warehouse with shelves lined with groceries and other general items. It is similar to a Home Hardware, in that we buy paint and building materials at this location. If we need to find something of a plumbing, electrical or mechanical nature, this is the first place most people check.

Padlei Co-op is the second largest business. It is filled with mostly grocery items, though does carry a small line of housewares, hardware, toys and other general household items.

The most prominent business to shop, however, is where I work ~ at Northern Stores. It's a general retailer of groceries, dry goods and clothing. Northern Stores also carries a selection of major household appliances such as washers, dryers, fridges and stoves. Couch sets as well as bedding sets can also be purchased, though it's not the selection that most people would see in southern locations.

Once a year, during autumn, Northern rents the community hall for almost a week. About 8 - 10 people build furniture which is displayed for customers for 3 - 4 days. When a customer wishes to purchase something, they receive a piece of paper stating the particulars of the item. At that time, they take that paper to Northern Stores and it will be checked in at the register. When payment has been made, the receipt is given to the customer who then brings it to the community hall. When the receipt has been shown to the retail manager, the items are then set aside to be delivered to the person's home the same day, or the following - depending upon how much is getting sold. After all, deliveries are made on a first-come, first-serve basis.

I remember when I walked into the community hall for the first time, just hours before opening the area to the public. I almost cried because I felt overwhelmed; it seemed as though the south and north had met after all. It truly resembled a smaller scale of The Brick.

The photo you see to the right is where I spend approximately 50 hours each, except for the 5 weeks I am on vacation. After all, I've worked for this company for over 18 years. 2011 is my last year with a 5-week vacation; when 2012 comes along, it goes to 6 weeks - and I can hardly wait since I can split my vacation period up into 3 mini vacations.

In case you may be interested, Northern Stores is actually one of the trade names for, The North West Company. We have several locations throughout northern Canada and not all locations are in the territories; some are located in the northern parts of several provinces. We also have great benefit packages, especially for those living in the Arctic regions.

If you are interested in learning more about this company and, possibly, in establishing a career, you may check its website at The North West Company. If you decide to submit a resume, be sure to let the powers that be know that you heard about them from Norma Budden. I'm sure it would put a smile on someone's face.

Seagulls at Sunset

Seagulls at Sunset
Seagulls at Sunset

Impressions of Canada's Arctic - especially life in Arviat, Nunavut

I would love to hear your thoughts about my present home called Arviat. Would you like to live here? Do you enjoy the scenic shots presented throughout this lens? What about the storms: do they seem nasty?

In your opinion ...

Does the good outweigh the bad?

Another Arviat sunset

Another Arviat sunset
Another Arviat sunset

I would love to hear your impressions about this lens. In time, I plan to add to it - to reflect some of the customs and practices and share some additional photos.

Arviat, Nunavut Guestbook

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    • profile image

      Ruthi 6 years ago

      I would love to visit for a month or so, IF I didn't have to drive in that white weather. However, I really don't like the cold so I doubt I'd want to stay longer than a month. Fabulous lens about your arctic home!

    • jadehorseshoe profile image

      jadehorseshoe 6 years ago

      VERY Pretty Lens!

    • profile image

      sherioz 6 years ago

      This is a beautiful lens. I spent about 10 days in Rankin Inlet about 40 years ago. I wonder how much it's changed by now. Have you been there? How much has Churchill changed?

    • Geekgurl profile image

      Kimberly Hiller 7 years ago from Chicago

      Interesting lens. This is the type of Canada I always thought about. When I told my Canadian friends about how I thought it was up there, they almost smacked me. :P

    • JenOfChicago LM profile image

      JenOfChicago LM 7 years ago

      This looks like a gorgeous place to live, despite the winter storms. Happy April Fool's Day! Blessed by a Squid Angel!

    • Missmerfaery444 profile image

      Missmerfaery444 7 years ago

      This is a superb lens! The photos are stunning especially the shoreline. I really want to visit Canada one day and would love to make this area part of my trip. Blessed!

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 7 years ago from Southampton, UK

      This is an excellent lens, and far more than a journey to a place, as with most other lenses about places. This is a lens about truly experiencing living in the wilderness. Wonderful job, Blessed by an angel.

    • LissaKlar LM profile image

      LissaKlar LM 7 years ago

      I also shared your story with my family and they were blown away by the animal that led you home. That was very powerful. Again, great job! I was plastered to the computer the entire time reading your lens straight through. I hope it starts getting warm for you soon! I'm going to visit your souvenir page now!

    • LissaKlar LM profile image

      LissaKlar LM 7 years ago

      The most north I've been is to Lubec, Maine and we were really messed up when the sun came up at like 4am then went down really early and the town closed down. This was a very enjoyable lens! I even shared a lot of your pictures with my husband and daughter and we all just loved your sunsets and pictures of the shore. Not the snowstorm picture, though - sorry! I don't know how you walk to work - every day in the dark and snow? OH- also- we are all intrigued and impressed that you might see a polar bear - have you ever caught a glimpse of one? Great job for the Jenga tower and congrats on your purple star.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I love the northern lights and this will attract me but the cold, I just admire you. I can understand that as we have several polar bears in the family, too.

    • ajgodinho profile image

      Anthony Godinho 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Just dropped by to congratulate you on the Purple Star awarded to this lens -- well deserved!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Amazing place. Although so far away from everything!

    • ajgodinho profile image

      Anthony Godinho 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I enjoyed this wonderful and personal lens ~ I felt like I was up there as I was reading through your lens. Boy oh boy, that was indeed a scary situation to have gone through. I guess all you can do is thank the Lord and appreciate the blessings He has bestowed!

    • juliannegentile profile image

      Julianne Gentile 7 years ago from Cleveland, Ohio, US

      I really enjoyed this lens! Blessed!

    • Brookelorren LM profile image

      Brookelorren LM 7 years ago

      I'd rather visit here than live here. Angel blessings to you though.

    • Paul Ward profile image

      Paul 7 years ago from Liverpool, England

      Great lens: a credit to Jenga 2.

    • Titia profile image

      Titia Geertman 7 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

      Thanks for showing us where you live. Despite the cold, it must be beautiful there.

    • profile image

      EpiphanyLondon 7 years ago

      Great lens - thanks! :-D

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      ~ Blessed by a Squidoo Angel of the Travel Canada neighbourhood ~

    • mbgphoto profile image

      Mary Beth Granger 7 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      This is a very interesting lens. Thanks so much for sharing. Beautiful sunset photos too! Blessed by a Squid Angel!

    • ChemKnitsBlog2 profile image

      ChemKnitsBlog2 7 years ago

      Your pictures are beautiful! Great addition to Jenga 2.0!

    • PromptWriter profile image

      Moe Wood 7 years ago from Eastern Ontario

      I think it would be an awesome place to visit but I don't think I could handle more than a few weeks.

    • Lady Gotrocks profile image

      Lady Gotrocks 7 years ago

      Very nice lens. Blessed again!

    • Charmcrazey profile image

      Wanda Fitzgerald 7 years ago from Central Florida

      Nunavut looks like it surrounded by a beautiful unspoiled wilderness. I would love to visit there.......in the summer. A lovely lens for the 2nd Jenga tower. Blessed

    • kimbesa2 profile image

      kimbesa 7 years ago from USA

      Thanks for this great introduction to life in Nunavut!

    • TeacherSerenia profile image

      TeacherSerenia 7 years ago

      WOW - I read your Edmonton travel lens today and I just assumed that you and your partner and kids lived in Alberta!! I had no idea you actually live in Nunavut.

    • capriliz lm profile image

      capriliz lm 7 years ago

      This is definitely an environment that will toughen you. Great addition to the Jenga stack.

    • Kelsey-Budden-16 profile image

      Kelsey-Budden-16 7 years ago

      Well, as it turns out, I didn't take any pictures of the town today. It was freezing!

      Cool lens though! :-)

    • profile image

      ohcaroline 7 years ago

      I grew up watching the northern lights from my bedroom. They were awesome. Kudos to you for being able to live there.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I'm not sure I would have your courage but it is wonderful to feel your love for your community. Great Jenga 2 lens!

    • AuthorNormaBudden profile image
      Author

      AuthorNormaBudden 7 years ago

      @jptanabe: Thanks so much for the angel blessing. :) I am glad you enjoyed the lens.

    • jptanabe profile image

      Jennifer P Tanabe 7 years ago from Red Hook, NY

      What a wonderful introduction to Arviat, Nunavut. Great photos, great descriptions, wonderful story, I love it all! Blessed.

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 7 years ago from USA

      Those sunsets are awesome but those storms would not be worth it for me. :) We moved south to get away from the NY winters. :)

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