I have had the great pleasure of working with Dawn, a retired teacher who has taught in communities throughout the territory since the 1970s. One of the many delights was her sharing of stories about teaching and living in remote communities. Her stories about animals particularly caught my attention. A boa constrictor on tour with a travelling science entertainer fell out of his container at the airport in the furthest North community of Grise Fiord. Her collection of garter snakes in her classroom delivered by an unaware government official who had followed directions for keeping the taped shut margarine container under his coat to prevent it from freezing on the trip North. The story about two chickens in the southern Baffin community of Kimmirut really caught my attention and my imagination. (In grade seven I proudly wrote a 25 page story based on my chicken Peep.) Now, I will attempt to retell the story of the adventures of two chickens in Southern Baffin Island. I have filled in minimal details, restraining myself until perhaps I write it as a children’s story.
Late one fall, Dawn got a call from a teacher in Iqaluit who had recently hatched out a batch of chicks in her classroom. Would she like a couple? Dawn agreed with no hesitation, although the chicks were 120 km to the north with no roads between the communities. The young chickens were bundled up in a sleeping bag and put on a plane. At that time, planes in Kimmirut only landed on a sandbar at low-tide. The ground was frozen but the water was still open so Dawn headed out by skidoo then canoe to receive the bundle of snug chickens from the plane.
The chickens made their home in the corner of her classroom. They soon grew combs and tail-feathers. Two big sleek roosters pranced around. One of the roosters flew at the janitor one evening. To appease him, the next day, he was gifted the rooster and turned it into stew. The other rooster, named Kukalu, was given to an Inuit family on the school council. Their daughter Pisi was a student in Dawn’s class. The family often played friendly jokes on Dawn and her husband so the rooster gift was a joke in turn.
Pisi’s father went to the dump and fashioned a cage from old refrigerator shelves. Kukalu lived like a parrot, a beautiful exotic noisy bird. They feed him bannock and seal meat on a stick. I imagine Kukalu lived a good life with lots of food and surrounded by family until he grew old or became stew.
Pisi now lives in Iqaluit. I hope to meet her someday and ask about her story of the rooster.