‘Ottawa’ Capital Voices: ‘The Eyeball of the Seal is One of the Best Parts’
In anticipation of Canada’s sesquicentennial celebrations, the Citizen’s Bruce Deachman has been out in search of Ottawans — 150 of them — to learn their stories of life and death, hope and love, the extraordinary and the everyday. We’ll share one person’s story every day until Canada Day.
“I moved here from another capital city: Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut. We moved here five years ago. My mother-in-law passed away, so my wife wanted to move down here. She moved down here with our daughter and I followed six months later.
“It’s a very big change. You’re moving into a bigger city with lots of stuff to do, lots of variety stores. All the necessities of life are here. That’s great in a way. But alcohol gets to be a problem down here. It’s so easy to get here. Up there you have to order it and you have to get a license. There are liquor stores, but you have more permits to deal with. But down here it’s so easy; just go to a store, pick up a bottle and that’s it. It’s different.
“I’m a recovering alcoholic, so it’s not a problem anymore. I’ve been sober two years. My wife helped me out. She started it, the recovery, and I followed after her. We were drinking heavy back home, but we were drinking more here because it was so available, and it became a problem, and we decided, ‘OK, this is enough.’ So my wife decided to go to rehab, and right after her I decided to go myself.
“At the beginning it was very hard, because most of your friends and family drink, and they love their drink and they love to hang out with you, so yeah, it was hard at the beginning.
“They still drink and they still like to hang out, but they understand my field and they don’t drink around me. They’re a big help to me.
“I’m 54 now. I travelled a lot. I used to be a TV cameraman and travelled all over Nunavut for the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation. Then I did freelance for over 10 years. I worked with international production houses from all over the world. It was a lot of fun.
“There’s lots I miss about the North. I miss the climate. The climate down here is very wet and damp; it goes right to your bones. Back home it’s dry and it just goes to your skin, not to your bones. And I miss the hunting, going out with the dog teams. I miss just about everything we do back home: fishing, hunting for birds in the springtime. Women love to eat ptarmigan. I miss the general life in the North. The seal hunt … I would go with a friend and we’d wait in the seal hole, and if we’re lucky we go back home right away, with a seal. We had a lot of fun.
“We hunt for survival. I’ve never heard of an Inuk sport hunter in all my life, and I bet I never will.
“The eyeball of the seal is one of the best parts, because it’s really creamy. It’s almost like truffles; liquidy and creamy. For a woman, it’s the prized part. There are women’s parts and men’s parts on the seal. I’m pretty much into male parts only. Women eat their own parts and men eat their own. Like arms or flippers are women’s parts. Men’s parts are like the inside parts: back spine. When you don’t have a seal here, it’s difficult to explain. The back spine is what I love to eat, because you get to eat bone marrow. That’s very tasty. Creamy.”
— Poasie Joamie. Ottawa Inuit Children’s Centre, Feb. 14, 2017.