In the past we lived a traditional life of fishing and hunting and only eating wild “country foods.” Now that has all changed as we tend to buy and eat more groceries imported from the south in our northern stores. These junk foods often include high sugar content drinks, canned and processed packaged foods that are low in nutritional value and often high in saturated fats which have all contributed to our unhealthy diet.
This sculpture has an Inuk wrestling with all those demons that are in his fridge. You will see a milk carton, a loaf of bread, Reese’s peanut butter cups and cans of Pepsi — but I have also added a bottle of liquor and cigarettes that have created additional health problems in the north.
We are seeing an increase in diabetes and lactose intolerance due to this poor diet, lack of exercise and decline in consuming “country foods.” Obesity in Nunavut is 88% more than the national average in the rest of Canada over the last ten years. There are also the associated social problems created with addictions to drugs and alcohol. It is a fact that we have a genetic disadvantage to alcohol and it seems everyone in the north smokes. Canadian Government Health statistics state that 58% of Inuit smoke cigarettes with 46% starting to smoke at the age of 14 or younger. The Inuit never had a traditional ceremonial use of tobacco as an excuse like many other aboriginal peoples in the south.
This is a subject that I have always wanted to carve as “food for thought.” These health problems have always worried me and this was an ideal opportunity to voice my concerns. Even though I go fishing and hunting ptarmigan, rabbits, caribou and seal — I still go to the shops and buy too much junk food.
I admit I am guilty of many of these problems.
Billy was born on July 7, 1978, in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador. In his early years he travelled eastern Canada residing and schooling in Ottawa, Yarmouth and Halifax in Nova Scotia, then at the age of thirteen returned to live in Goose Bay. He now lives in North West River in Labrador and enjoys fishing and hunting on the land with his family.
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