REGINA – The people of the Western Arctic are a resilient people who struggle to overcome great hardships, says Sister Fay Trombley.
Trombley told the national Catholic Women's League convention of one family, including two elders, who survived being at sea four days with little food.
"They suffer hardships and tragedy," she said, "but their internal strength is awesome."
Trombley, a member of the Sisters of Charity of the Immaculate Conception and a former professor at Newman Theological College, has served as pastoral leader at Our Lady of Grace Parish, Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., for the past eight years.
"These people are survivors and so are the missionaries," she told about 800 delegates.
Trombley made two distinctions; the people of the Western Arctic are called Inuvialuit; those of the Eastern Arctic, Nunavut, are Inuit.
"They are not First Nations people and resent being lumped in with them. Their origin is Mongolia and they came over about 5,000 years ago," she said.
First Nations people are where there are trees, Inuvialuit live where are no trees, she said.
Using slides she described the treeless land, the featureless ocean, the 24 hours of darkness in winter, 24 hours of light in summer and how the people had little concept of time, but revolved their lives around the movement of the animals, the seasons and the sun.
"It makes talking about the Scriptures a little difficult," she said. How do you explain in Ephesians, "Don't let the sun go down on anger," she used as an example.
Change came to her area with the oil companies leading to a time of what she described as easy and fast money. When the oil companies left, they left behind problems of addiction and 70 per cent unemployment.
The people, she said, live for today and let tomorrow take care of itself.
She described her mission as one of healing through personal contact and workshops. She has created projects for the people that included repairing and refurbishing an abandoned boat, restoring a house and creating a playground for the children. Her next project is restoration of the church.
Her home serves as a craft centre, children's play area, provides space for workshops and sometimes for small liturgical services. It also houses a tiny food bank.