by Mark Dowie
Published in the January / February 2009 issue of Orion magazine
A CARIBOU CALVING GROUND – Nunavut, Canada: June days lengthen and snow melts to reveal tiny bright wildflowers and nutritious lichens. Thousands of pregnant caribou gather in tight circles. They are gaunt and exhausted from their six-hundred-mile migration from the boreal forests of Saskatchewan.
They have traversed steep mountains through howling blizzards and crossed raging ice-choked rivers into the subarctic taiga, then in single file trudged on to the arctic tundra to offer the world a new generation. The castanet-clicking of heel bones mixes with groans of delivery. The thrumming of desperate mothers and the bleating of lost calves create a chaotic din that can be heard for miles across the treeless expanse.
This is Kivalliq, a vast region of central Nunavut, the bleak but starkly beautiful Inuit autonomous region of northern Canada. If you are a caribou, it is not a safe place….