Labrador’s Beatrice Hunter is now behind bars at the province’s largest male prison, days after the Labrador Land Protectors held a vigil outside of the RCMP’s Happy Valley-Goose Bay lockup. (Facebook and CBC)
Beatrice Hunter — an Inuit grandmother — has been transferred more than 1,000 kilometres from home
CBC Posted: Jun 02, 2017
Beatrice Hunter, a Labrador woman sent to jail this week after she told the court she could not promise to obey an injunction against protesting at Muskrat Falls, is now behind bars at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary in St. John’s.
With no female correctional facility in Labrador, Hunter is just the latest woman to end up in the province’s largest male prison.
“Females are being held again at HMP because of crowding at the Clarenville (women’s) facility,” said Memorial University professor and sociologist Rose Ricciardelli on Friday.
“It’s definitely a problem. It’s very challenging. She’s clearly not in a good space, she’s probably not very comfortable where she is and she doesn’t have the supports that would be essential.”
Hunter was brought into custody on Monday morning during proceedings related to charges laid after a Muskrat Falls protest over the Victoria Day weekend.
Beatrice Hunter was taken into custody Monday, after she told the court she would not promise to stay away from the Muskrat Falls construction site. (Katie Breen/CBC)
Shouldn’t be incarcerated
Ricciardelli says Hunter shouldn’t have been incarcerated in the first place.
“There’s no need or reason that a non-violent individual would be held in a … place such as prison,” she told CBC’s Labrador Morning.
Though Hunter was given the option by a judge to avoid prison time if she agreed to stay away from Muskrat Falls, Ricciardelli says more alternatives should have been made available.
“Giving her this option of saying, ‘Can you adhere?Can you stay away from the land?‘ is not really presenting an alternative if she feels like her role is to be on the land,” she said.
“Her choices were very clear [and] she was very honest in her response.”
Being sent to prison far away from home also places an undue burden on families of inmates like Hunter, said Ricciardelli. Hunter lives in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, located in northern Labrador, more than 1,000 kilometres from St. John’s.
“There are no resources in places to have families go and visit loved ones who are incarcerated,” she said.
‘She’s in there with murderers’
A small group of supporters gathered outside HMP on Friday afternoon to protest Hunter’s incarceration.
“We would like to see her freed. It’s ridiculous,” said Jodi Greenleaves. “There was no violent crimes committed … they have her inside here in a men’s prison that’s over-populated and is in disgusting condition.”
“She’s in there with murderers and rapists and drug abusers — she’s an Inuit grandmother, a kind and gentle person. She’s not at risk to hurt anybody … she’s a political prisoner, is what she is.”
Jodi Greenleaves, originally of Cartwright, stands outside Her Majesty’s Penitentiary in St. John’s on Friday to protest Beatrice Hunter’s incarceration at the men’s prison. (Gary Locke/CBC)
Hunter, who went onto the main Muskrat Falls site last October, is expected to appear in provincial court Tuesday for a hearing.
Maya Sialuk Jacobsen of Greenland gives a henna tattoo to a friend’s chin during an event at the Anchorage Museum, part of the Polar Lab’s Tupik-Mi series on traditional tattoos. (Photo: Zachariah Hughes, KSKA)
More and more Alaska Native women are getting face tattoos.
The traditional practice dates back centuries, but was banned by 19th and 20th century missionaries. Now it’s coming back. Though the techniques and customs were nearly lost, a new generation is using tattoos to reclaim what it means to be a strong native woman in the 21st century.
In the backroom of a small Anchorage tattoo parlor, Maya Sialuk Jacobsen used a thin needle to pull an inky thread through the skin on her friend’s wrist.
“I use the exit hole as the entrance for the next stitch,” Jacobsen explained, bent over her work as a small crowd milled about, observing.
Jacobsen threads an extremely thin needle with cotton thread, dipped in black ink, and passing through the top layer of skin one stitch at a time. The shallow lacerations heal around the ink, becoming darker as they rise further to the surface of the skin. (Photo: Zachariah Hughes, KSKA)
The friend is Holly Mititquq Nordlum, organizer of a week-long series of tattoo-related events called Tupik-Mi. Compared to the sting of a tattoo gun, the stitches hardly register, and Norldum looked unphased, greeting and bantering with observers cycling in and out of the cramped room.
“It’s loose,” Nordlum said, nodding at the flesh on her arm, “I put on a few pounds so she’d have something to work with.”
“Her skin is so much better than my husband’s skin,” Jacobsen laughed. “She has really lovely skin to tattoo.”
Jacobsen is one of the few Inuit women who knows how to give tattoos through traditional methods like sewing and poking in dabs of dye. She’s candid that the equipment has changed: Instead of whale sinew, she uses cotton thread; rather than coloring with soot she uses tattoo ink. But much like rifle-hunting rather than harpooning, she sees her modern tools simply as superior means towards traditional ends: Inscribing the skin with meaningful marks.
Jacobsen has spent years hobbling together a body of knowledge about what the practice meant before Danish colonization in her native Greenland almost three centuries ago.
Holly Mititquq Nordlum, originally from Kotzebue, sits for a tattoo along her wrist from Greenlandic artist Maya Sialuk Jacobsen during a live demonstration of traditional tattooing techniques. (Photo: Zachariah Hughes, KSKA).
“There is no short answer,” Jacobsen said, adding, “it’s also a very Western, academic way of thinking.”
Outsiders have looked at Inuit tattoos as having legible meanings embedded within stable rituals, like clear markers signifying marriage or adulthood. But not only did those cultural foreigners import concepts of their own–like marriage–but also a sense of fixity to a practice Jacobsen says was much more fluid and interpretive. “I can’t tell you a triangle means an iceberg,” she explained dryly. That’s partly because the historical record is unreliable, but also because symbols were not nearly so firm.
You can’t understand tattooing, she believes, without understanding the lives of Inuit women.
While working as a tattoo artist in Europe, Jacobsen was diagnosed with Fybromyalagia, which made it difficult to weild the heavy, vibrating drill that is the trade’s standard instrument. So she started poking, and from there stitching. But as she tried learning more about how Inuit women had traditionally been marked, the few historical accounts all came from European adventurers and missionaries.
“I assure you, they did not really know what tattooing was,” Jacobsen said with a wry smile.
But then came the mummies: A group of 15th century Inuit women discovered during 1972 at the Qialakitsoq (“little sky”) grave-site in Greenland, preserved tattoos and all. Jacobsen found a book about them, studied the designs, and realized the marks on their foreheads, cheeks, and chins were similar to the tight stitches she’d learned as a girl. It was her first primary source.
“I have, like, literature, and then I have, what I call ‘from the horse’s mouth,’” Jacobsen said, “and that is the mummies.” It’s also a well of source material gleaned from interviews with women about Inuit culture, all the way down to comparing notes on sewing and stitching.
Holly Mititquq Nordlum shows off her partially complete tattoo during a live demonstration at Anchorage’s Above The Rest studio. Each horizontal line is 40 individual stitch marks through the first layer of skin. Before starting the stitches, Jacobsen poked the basic design of three bird feet rising from the lines. Nordlum’s Inupiaq name, Mititquq, means ‘a place where birds land,’ and she celebrates big life goals with bird feet tattoos, like the two on her opposite wrist, done with a tattoo gun. (Photo: Zachariah Hughes, KSKA)
“Tupik means tattoo,” explained Nordlum, who is Inupiaq, “and then ‘mi’ is a shortened version of muit, which means ‘people.’ In Kotzebue we say ‘Qikiqtaġrumuit‘ which means ‘we’re the people from Kotzebue.’”Tupik-Mi, Jacobson and Norldum’s project, is part of an effort within the Urban Interventions series in the Anchorage Museum’s Polar Lab.
Nordlum was introduced to Jacobsen over Facebook by after she couldn’t find anyone to give her a traditional tattoo in Alaska. A friendship blossomed, and they arranged the first in what they hope will be yearly Tupik-Mi events.
In addition to a lecture and live tattooing demonstration, the women also hosted a light explanation of tradditional tattoos for high schoolers before letting them apply tube after tube of henna to their appendages.
Nordlum squeezed a tight formation of dots and lines onto the back of an 11th grader’s wrist.
“She’s making my initials with the Inuit designs,” said Ben Hunter-Francis.
The West High junior said he has plenty of time to decide whether or not he’ll get a tattoo. But if he does, he’d like it to be attached to his Yup’ik roots in the Lower-Yukon community of Marshall.
“Just to make my heritage proud, and make my family proud,” Hunter-Francis said, “that I’m connected with my heritage in some way.”
Traditionally, tattooing was the province of women: They were the ones who wore them, and exclusively the ones to administer them. But as Nordlum finished Hunter-Francis’s wrist, she explained that the practice isn’t bound in place by history.
Jacobsen’s son Benjamin came with her from Greenland, and shows off self-administered henna designs made of different traditional patterns, but reconfigured. (Photo: Zachariah Hughes, KSKA).
“In modern culture, men getting tattoos is not a rarity. We are contemporary people working in modern times, so although it was a rarity traditionally, now it isn’t,” Nordlum said, not letting up her hold on Hunter-Francis’s arm.
“Culture is not a set thing, it is a living breathing thing that changes as time goes, and we’re just adapting.” Nordlum added,”Like skin.”
If plans go ahead, Tupik-Mi will expand next year to train a handful of Alaskans in traditional tattooing methods. By the third year the hope is to hold workshops in Canada and Greenland, growing tattooing capacity across the high north.
“The idea,” Nordlum explained, “is for Inupiaq, Inuit, Yup’ik women to feel proud of who they are. To feel strong. To create a sisterhood. To belong to something bigger than yourself, so that you’re safe and you’re supported by all these other women.”
Nordlum was a few days away from getting lines tattooed on her chin, one of the most visible and common styles across a wide array of indigenous Arctic communities. She says more women in Alaska are opting for chin tattoos, to the point where she brushed off the suggestion it was a bold decision to get one
“I don’t feel very brave here, because there’s so many of us,” Nordlum said.
Permanence is part of why tattoos carry so much weight, and Nordlum sees the resurgence in women’s chin tattoos as putting forward a permanent, proud native identity for all to see.
Jacobsen had her own chin lines laid down by her partner just two months ago. Soon after the process began, she felt a visit her late mother.
“And my mind was just wrapped around all of these thousands of fore-mothers I must have had that had tattoos,” Jacobsen said, her words growing softer. “My heart was beating so hard, and I cried, and I was shaking.”
Jacobsen took a break to give Nordlum a rest mid-way through the tattooing demonstration, and everyone in the room took turns passing around an infant that friends had brought to the demonstration. (Photo: Zachariah Hughes, KSKA)
Four thin lines that would have normally taken a few minutes took hours. “It was definitely very, very emotional,” she finished.
Jacobsen shared that intimate experience with Nordlum just days ago, when dot-by-dot, she poked a tattoo into her friend’s chin.
Cpl. Francis Pegahmagabow, credited with 378 kills.
Modern sniping was born amid the muck of the battlefields of the First World War and some of its deadliest practitioners were soldiers from Canada’s First Nations communities.
Foremost among them was Cpl. Francis Pegahmagabow, credited with 378 kills during his four years on the shell-shattered front lines of Europe. Historical records indicate that Canada could claim eight of the top dozen snipers from all countries involved in the fighting.
“Of those eight, at least five and probably six are aboriginal of some sort – Metis, First Nations or Inuit,” said Maj. Jim McKillip, a historian with the Canadian Forces department of history and heritage.
Pegahmagabow was the best known of them and the Ojibway was the most highly decorated aboriginal soldier in Canadian history, winning the Military Medal with two bars. That’s the equivalent of getting the honour three times.
Pegahmagabow, who was from the Parry Island Indian Reserve in Ontario – now know as the Wasauksing First Nation – not only made his mark as a scout and sniper but during combat at such bloody battles as Passchendaele, Ypres, the Somme and Mount Sorel, he also captured dozens of prisoners.
He enlisted in August 1914 and served until the end of the war, when he returned home and became an activist for his people.
“He was very keen,” his granddaughter, Theresa McInnes, said in a telephone interview. “I think he wanted to prove himself. He strived to be better. He just had great determination.
“He just wanted to go to war and represent his people and, I think, all of Canada.”
Even wounds could not keep him from the front lines for long, she said.
“He was really determined to get back after being wounded. He couldn’t wait to get back fighting. That was just him. He wanted to be there for the other soldiers.”
While Pegahmagabow was treated like an equal in the army, he endured prejudice when he returned to civilian life.
“He went to war thinking he would be equal to all people and when he came back he was not, so I think he was quite disappointed in that,” said McInnes, who was born within weeks of his death in 1952 but learned about him from relatives.
Pegahmagabow grappled with his experiences in the war and the after-effects of his wounds when he came back. Poison gas had damaged his lungs so badly, he had to sleep in a chair to stop them from filling with fluid.
But McInnes, whose mother married one of Pegahmagabow’s sons, says her mother remembered the soldier as “a kind man” who cared deeply about his family.
“She said he was the nicest man but when he came back he was very poor.”
While he has often been clouded in obscurity, efforts are underway to recognize Pegahmagabow, who rose to be chief of his band and also later served as a member of his band council, fighting for aboriginal rights and treaties.
“He just didn’t sit back,” said McInnes, who noted a plaque and sculpture in his honour are planned. “He was a fighter all around.”
Among other notable snipers were Johnson Paudash, of Kawartha Lakes, Ont., who was described as a soft-spoken man with keen eyesight; Cree Henry Norwest, who hailed from the Edmonton area and had a reputation for striking fear into the Germans; and Louis Philippe Riel, nephew of Métis leader Louis Riel.
Although Canadians excelled at it, sniping was introduced into the war by the Germans, who equipped soldiers with specialized training and rifles equipped with telescopic sights. The allies were slow to catch on. The Germans had issued 20,000 telescopic sights while the British had none.
“Everyone was getting outshot by the Germans for the first half of the war,” McKillip said.
The British eventually set up a sniper school in late 1915 or early 1916, the historian says, but even then they lagged with equipment. They were reluctant to add a telescopic sight to their rifles because they thought it slowed the rate of fire and when they did attach one, it was in an awkward position on the side of the weapon, which made it difficult to use.
In the Canadian forces, snipers were drawn from the regular infantry and men with an aptitude for shooting were sought.
“The demographics of the Canadian Expeditionary Force meant that there was a fairly substantial proportion of the force that did have an outdoors background, most of it farmers but also hunters and fishermen and trappers,” McKillip said, noting British soldiers tended to be city-dwellers.
Marksmanship wasn’t the only quality needed to be a good sniper, McKillip said.
“People realized pretty quickly that sniping was more. It was shooting and hunting combined – the skills of camouflage and concealment. The kind of hunting that you do to hunt animals at close range were the same sort of skills for concealing yourself from the enemy.”
McKillip said the image of a sniper as a lone wolf is a myth and they operated in pairs, with one man serving as a spotter and zeroing in on a target with a telescope.
The same system exists today except the team has been expanded to three, with the third man acting in a support capacity.
“Personality is a very big consideration in this,” McKillip said of the snipers both then and now. “Probably the quality most required in a sniper is patience. First of all, they had to use stealth to get into a lot of these firing positions and this would take lots of patience and sometimes long, laborious crawls or stealthy walks through the night to get into position and hide.
“It’s not uncommon at all to . . . get into position one night and not move the entire day. A lot of patience and stamina and nerves of steel because they were often put into very dangerous circumstances.”
Usually, snipers set up in their own little outposts away from the main body of troops, not just for tactical but safety reasons.
“Once a team started being effective, the enemy would react, the enemy would hunt these guys,” McKillip said. “Quite often the mechanism for hunting them was to try and spot them and then bring down artillery fire on them.”
McKillip pointed out if the snipers were in with the rest of the troops, that fire would land on everyone, not just the snipers.
The snipers lived in the same conditions as the other soldiers and followed a similar routine. Besides seeking out targets of opportunity, they would also be assigned missions such as taking out machine-gun nests or artillery crews or even hunting enemy snipers.
Ironically, in the early days of the war many soldiers thought sniping was a cushy job because the snipers didn’t have to do as many of the more tiring duties, such as labour.
“They thought you can go anywhere and lie in the tall grass,” McKillip said. “They did get quite a bit of attention from the enemy so I think by the end of the war they were recognized as specialists doing a dangerous job.”