At 2 pm today (April 24, 2011), Human Cargo is performing its newest play Night at the Factory Theatre in Toronto, ON. Reneltta Arluk, who plays Gloria Muktar in the play, describes her wonderful experience.
“An email arrives in my inbox from Christopher Morris the Artistic Director of Human Cargo, a Toronto-based theatre company. He has been given my name and is looking to meet up to discuss playing a role in his play Night. He tells me it is to fill the role of Gloria Muktar, best friend of Puiyuk Auqsaq. A doomed character from the beginning but truly one of the most hearted characters I had read for in a long time.
“The premise is that Gloria, pretending to be Puiyuk, strongly requests (via email) that her grandfathers’ bones be returned to her family. This is in an attempt to help Puiyuk and her father, Jako heal from the loss of their mother/wife from a terrible snowmobile accident. The recipient of the email, Daniella Swan, compelled by this request risks her job and reputation and brings the bones back to Pond Inlet, Nunavut; the setting of the play. It is a play about the clash of cultures, good intentions, family dysfunctions and friendship. Christopher tells me that it will be performed in Gananoque, ON at Thousand Islands Playhouse and then tour to Nunavut where we will be performing it in Iqaluit, Igloolik and the place of inspiration, Pond Inlet. “Ever awesome!“ I said.
“These are still the words I utter when I look back on that tour. You see, my father is Inuit and my mother is Chipewyan-Cree. My mother raised me as a single parent so I was raised culturally as First Nations. All my beliefs and understandings come from that sacred place for which I am very thankful but as a child of an absent father, especially one who also comes from such a rich culture, I felt like something was missing in my life. Part of me felt this…disconnect. The one thing great my father did when I was young was put me under his beneficiary, the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (IRC). It is like treaty but for Inuit people in the Northwest Territories. It was through them that I felt like I had a string of connection to an unidentifiable part of me. They knew who I was. They knew I was an Inuk, like them. They sent me newsletters, Christmas cards and helped pay for my education. As I got older I started reaching out to relatives from my father’s side of the family. They always knew who I was, remembered me as a little girl, songs I used to sing to them, I used to speak the language they said. It was not that they had left me, they were just waiting for me to come back to them they said.
“This is one of the beautiful things I love about the Inuit/Aleut that although there is no common word to describe our people (other than Eskimo) we do not see blood quantum or boundaries. If you are an Inuk you are an Inuk and that’s all. So although I am Inuvialuit of the Inuvik region of the Northwest Territories, I knew that going to Nunavut to be immersed and seen as an Inuk would alter my blood in some way. It sounds strange yes, but how else could I describe this? For lack of word space and time I won’t go into details of this experience but all my life I have not known what it was like to be seen as Inuit first and then First Nations. To be seen as only Inuit, to be talked to as an Inuk and live as modernly as one can in the short time I was there changed me…melded me. We cannot control the pains we encounter in our lives nor can we always be healed from them but sometimes life gives you a gift and this was one of them. On the First Air flight from Iqaluit I was an Inuk all the way but when the wheels hit the runway in Yellowknife I knew was Dene again and that felt good too.