In an Arctic Outpost, Friday Nights Are for Curling

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It pushed them to go out during the darkest months of the year, when the sun barely crosses the horizon and people withdraw into their houses. For women who curled, withdrawing was not an option, because the team depended on them.

“They know they need to get out,” Ms. Mair said. “When they stay home, they are unwell.”

The communities of the Northwest Territories, with a population descended from Indigenous and white settler families, stand out for their struggles with mental health, which are in many cases connected to Canada’s damaging colonial history.

This is a familiar story to Ms. Lennie, the daughter of an Inuvialuit man and a white woman who moved to the Far North as a nurse. At the age of 7, Ms. Lennie’s father was sent to a residential school with the aim of “westernizing” him, taught by priests and nuns who punished him for using his native language, she said.

He learned silence there, and it stayed with him as an adult.

“You didn’t talk, you didn’t cry, you didn’t have emotion,” she said. “You grew up in a system that taught that out of you.”

She can’t remember anyone talking about mental health when she was growing up, not even after her uncle, and then her cousin, died by suicide. That history has spilled into a third generation, she said, children growing up around addiction and violence, paying for what happened to their parents. She carries images of the dog tags that her uncle and grandmother were given, the “Eskimo IDs.”

Still, when Ms. Lennie tried living in the south, she couldn’t wait to return. She hated the traffic and the pollution. She was used to being near bodies of water. Her husband, who is from Tuktoyaktuk, on the Arctic Ocean, didn’t belong in the city.


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