Arnait Retreat

Ilisaqsivik organized the Arnait (Women’s) Retreat in September of 2010 as part of an ongoing research project on the changing role of women in Clyde River and the neighboring community of Qikiqtarjuaq.  Women of different ages from both communities participated in the retreat, which was held at Kiglapait, a camp located approximately 40 km up the fjord from Clyde River.   The purpose of the retreat was to give women the opportunity to spend time together on the land away from their everyday work and caregiving responsibilities to reflect on the impact of social and environmental changes on their lives, and to find ways to support one another in navigating these changes.

The retreat incorporated informal time spent berry picking together in small groups, as well as structured discussions on a range of themes, including being healthy, traditional plants and comparisons of climate and vegetation between Qikiqtarjuat and Clyde River, raising a healthy family, and how to have a good life.  Group meetings always began or ended with game playing and laughter.  On several days, women from the different communities were paired up and encouraged to spend time together to talk about specific topics, such as what older women should be teaching younger women to help them succeed in their lives.

One of the primary goals of the retreat was to create a safe place for the women to share their knowledge, experiences, and concerns and to form a support network for the future.  Over the course of the week, women created new bonds and friendships as they talked, shared tents, shared food, and spent time together on the land and around cook fires.  Women from the two communities who participated in the retreat have stayed in touch and hope to organize other gatherings in the future.