In this personal and honest photo story, Cultural Educator Maria Merkuratsuk shares her intimate connection to her homelands around Nain, Nunatsiavut, Labrador. Raised out on the land with her large extended family, Maria’s knowledge of the land is strong and powerful.
In the fall, before the ice starts to form, we go out in the boat to hunt for food. And while I’m out there, I just think, “Wow, it’s so good to be out!” To see animals and get fresh air. To feel cold and tired. It’s good for the soul.
I have my own Skidoo so I can go where I want. I go up to the ponds with my dog Koda. I’m so grateful that I’m able to do that. Driving, driving, driving, out on the land with nobody else. Just getting out of town is amazing.
When the sea ice starts to freeze, it’s freedom. You have the freedom to go anywhere on the Skidoo, as long as the ice is good. The ice was not good at all this fall so we didn’t get out until late. It only started to freeze around Christmas. Normally it starts to form in late November, but it’s changing up here.
Our cabin is about ninety miles north. I travel there with my family—with my brothers Jacko and Eli, and my sons Harry and Trevor. When we go up there, it’s totally different land, a totally different world. We go fishing, partridge hunting, wooding, whatever we feel like doing. By the end of the day, we’re tired from so much fresh air. It’s so good.
It’s like my body fits in perfectly there. Like the land is a slot and I am the shape that fits inside it. I don’t know how else to describe it. That’s how it is when I go up north, when I go home. I call it going home. I’m really speechless when I’m there. I love to just sit and look out at the land.
When I’m there, I know the land. I know where to go, I know where to be. The first time someone goes, they may think there’s nothing there. But at your home, you know the streets, you know the buildings—the store, the post office. This is how it is to me when I go up there. I know every hill I go over, whether it’s going to be a turn or a climb or a slide. I know what to do up there even more than I know where to go in Nain.
Maria Merkuratsuk and Lena Onalik of Nain, Nunatsiavut, Labrador
When I spend time in St. John’s, Newfoundland, or in Goose Bay, Labrador, I long for the land. I long for the food. I can get a bit depressed and I can’t wait to come home. Everybody’s different, but this is home for me.
I don’t have a lot of time to take pictures when I’m out there. But if we’re Skidooing and we stop, sometimes I just decide to take pictures. I see the land and I want to capture it. I would love to have a good camera, but I just use my phone. It looks so good!
Maria was born in Nain, but was raised out on the land with five brothers, four sisters, and a large extended family. Her first language is Inuttitut.
She has worked with a number of organizations as an instructor of traditional and cultural values. She has held workshops on cleaning and preparing sealskins, sewing traditional clothing and crafts, and the Inuttitut language.
Maria works as a polar bear monitor and loves experiencing all of what life has to offer—especially out on the land.