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Ode to the Iglu

In late November, 2012, it was a Wednesday, my dear old friend Louie Kamookak spent a twilit afternoon outside his cabin helping me to build the iglu that I would sleep in that night. He taught me how to locate suitable snowhouse snow (pukaangajuq) using a snow probe (sabgut). He showed me how to cut out blocks with a panna and how to shape them and bevel the edges so that they angled inward and spiralled up toward the ceiling. Louie was a patient teacher. He was proud of his culture and generous with his knowledge. He was supremely adapted to Arctic survival. On the land Louie didn't just survive, he thrived.

In the morning the thermometer in the cabin window showed minus 36. Out in the iglu I'd slept like the dead. At work that day, half in earnest, half in jest, Louie talked me up to anyone who'd listen.

On the land Louie taught me a new kind of confidence. He told the best stories. He called me Chief.

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