Nunatsiavut Cultural Ambassador

Cruise ship tourism in the North has grown dramatically in recent decades, providing tourism opportunities for remote Inuit communities across the Arctic. The Nunatsiavut Government’s Department of Culture, Language and Tourism recognizes this as an excellent opportunity to further develop tourism in the five Nunatsiavut communities. Their aim is to celebrate Inuit culture and history and to provide visitors with an opportunity to experience the cultural life and natural beauty of Labrador’s coast. The Department of Culture, Language and Tourism, in partnership with Adventure Canada and Tradition & Transition, created an exciting new position: Nunatsiavut Cultural Ambassador. This position offers young Nunatsiavummiut the opportunity to represent Nunatsiavut for a cruise season aboard Adventure Canada ships, and to learn about cruise ship tourism and the opportunities that can be brought back to Nunatsiavut communities by way of this cultural exchange.

Jessica Winters of Makkovik was the first Nunatsiavut Cultural Ambassador; she sailed aboard the Ocean Endeavour in the summer/fall of 2019. Among the many experiences she had during the cruise season, she participated in the cultural presentation series, educational programming, and shore excursions. Jessica is quoted in the italicized text below, alongside a number of beautiful images that she shared.

“On board, I've been enjoying the presence of our Kugluktuk elders, Joe and Susie. Myself and Susie have been sewing and discussing together our techniques and patterns - spending time with her feels a little like home"

“The other day we sailed through the highly-anticipated Bellot Strait. Almost every passenger woke up before wake-up call to watch our navigation through this meandering route. Around 6am, a group of bowheads were spotted by our naturalist team - I've now accomplished my goal of seeing all 3 of the true arctic whales!”

The position also provides an excellent opportunity to see the great diversity between different Arctic locales.

“What stuck out with me the most on this trip was the diversity we saw and experienced in the 2 weeks that we sailed from Greenland to Newfoundland. We had drastic changes between landscapes; from glaciers in Greenland to the fiords and polar bears of the Torngat Mountains, greetings from Minke Whales as we passed the tree-line into Nain, all the way down to rural Newfoundland and ending in the picturesque St. John's Harbour. Through all of these landscapes, we had locals greet us into their regions by sharing their knowledge and experiences - testimonials that provided both guests and staff alike perspective to learn and experience something deeper.”

It is also a great way to learn how to develop interesting, respectful, and engaging visitor experiences from interacting with guests and staff, as well as visiting other Inuit communities in northern regions where the cruise ship land.

“After a couple days sailing, we arrived to the community of Gjoa Haven. We had an incredible presentation of drumming and singing from knowledge-keepers in the community; the host made sure to mention that it is cultural custom to provide entertainment for newcomers to let them know that they are welcome.”

Some of these northern communities, like those in Greenland and Nunavut, are intimately involved in the planning and design of visitor experiences and have developed programming that promotes respect towards cultural lifeways, wildlife, and the land in order to provide guests with a better, more culturally sensitive understanding of the north and the peoples who call it home.

“Although a little out of focus, this picture is one of my favourites [see photo #4]! It was taken while berry picking and talking about food sovereignty and self-sufficiency with Grace Cordsen, Scientist in Residence. It's one of my favourites from this expedition because you can see the relationship I built with people on the cruise by using the land as a foundation for discussing deeper, more complex issues."

Visiting these communities and talking with other Inuit about cruise ship tourism is helping to better inform community planning and promote future cruise ship visits in Nunatsiavut. It also helps to create safe spaces for guests, often from the global south, and local Inuit to talk about climate change and the impacts that are being seen in northern places.

To learn more, read A Circumpolar Adventure, a story that Jessica wrote about her experience as the first Nunatsiavut Cultural Ambassador.