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Mangilaluk’s Highway

Today is the official opening day for the new Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway that connects Inuvik, Northwest Territories, with Tuktoyaktuk on the Arctic Ocean. Tuktoyaktuk, commonly called Tuk, has a population of around 900 Inuvialuit people and was previously only accessible by an ice road, which was closed in the summer. You will feel invested in this new road once you've read the story of Mangilaluk Bernard Andreason. Bernard was born in Tuk, but was sent off to a residential school where he spent three years. In June of 1972, 11-year-old Bernard and his friends Dennis and Jack ran away from the school in Inuvik and decided to walk home to Tuk -a distance of 120 kilometers through the wilderness.

On the third day, the wind was still unrelenting and the sky darker. As they ate berries that morning, Jack begged Dennis and Bernard to return to Inuvik with him. But Dennis objected. Bernard suggested to Jack that if they started walking back to Inuvik, Dennis would get spooked and come running after them.

Jack and Bernard turned back, but Dennis didn’t follow. Bernard couldn’t stop thinking about him. Bernard told Jack to wait for him as he went to find their friend and talk some sense into him. When he reached the river where he’d last seen Dennis, he was gone. Bernard yelled his cousin’s name, but only the wind howled back. He looked for footprints, but there was no trace of him. He returned to Jack and they found some bushes that offered a little cover from the hard rain and slept.

Jack’s crying woke Bernard up the next morning. Jack was too sick to find food. Bernard picked some berries and fetched water in the pop can. Jack had lost a lot of weight. Bernard knew they were in trouble and needed help, but didn’t know if he should continue on to Inuvik, or head for Tuk, where he hoped Dennis might already be.

‘I really want you to come with me,’ Bernard said. But Jack wouldn’t get up. Bernard told him that if he came to Tuk, they could slide down the big hill together in the wintertime, and that he could see the pingos. ‘Dennis might even be there waiting for us,’ Bernard said. But Jack was too weak. ‘Go without me,’ he said. Bernard didn’t want to leave him, but knew if they remained together, they would die together.

The story tells the plight of the Inuit as they dealt with the invasion of the oil industry, alcohol, and government aid, which included taking their children away to residential schools. The schools themselves were often nightmares, as the Sir Alexander Mackenzie School was for Bernard. Read Bernard's story at Granta. Forty-five years later, the residents of Tuk have high hopes for the new $300 million gravel road that will connect them with the rest of Canada. -via Metafilter

(Image credit: Adam Jones, Ph.D.)

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