Tuk youth embarks on C3 expedition'A lot of people don't know what it's like in the North,' says Chukita Gruben
Chukita Gruben, 22, left Tuktoyaktuk on Sept. 10 to take part in the Canada C3 expedition around the country's coastlines. She hopes to educate people about the North and inspire youth in her community to reach their potential. - Kirsten Fenn/NNSL photo
Northern News Services
Thursday, September 14, 2017
Growing up in Tuktoyaktuk, 22-year-old Chukita Gruben always wanted to leave home to see other places.
She had big dreams and aspirations, she said, and eventually went off to Vernon, B.C. for college.
It wasn't until Gruben left home that she truly started to appreciate where she came from - and to realize the misunderstandings people hold about Indigenous people in the North.
"When I talked about my culture - I hunt and stuff - people were like, 'Why do you do that?'," she said. "I was told things that made me discouraged."
What they didn't understand is the cost of living in the North, Gruben explained, pointing to the exorbitant price of everything from food to housing in her remote Arctic community.
"We hunt to be able to provide for our family a meal from the land," said Gruben. "And it's so much work doing it. It may seem like you just shoot it and skin it, but it's more than that."
On Sept. 10, Gruben set off on another journey beyond her community.
But this time, it's to break down those stereotypes and encourage other youth from the North to seize the opportunities before them.
She's making her way from Tuktoyaktuk around the shores of Alaska as a youth ambassador on the Canada C3 ship.
The boat is travelling along the country's three coasts to give Canadians a better understanding of the country and its people during the 150th year since Confederation.
"A lot of people don't know what it's like in the North," said Gruben, who will meet passengers from across Canada, including scientists, musicians, artists, historians, doctors and journalists.
There's a lot that Canada and the world still need to learn, she said.
She hopes her trip will help foster more understanding and give her an opportunity "to tell who I am as an Inuvialuit."
Gruben also wants to be an example to other young people in her community.
Although she left Tuktoyaktuk to go to school and experience other places, she has since returned to contribute to her community where she said she is "content" living the lifestyle she does - hunting, spending time with family and working for the Tuktoyaktuk Community Corporation.
"I come from a very rich culture and I took that for granted," she said.
"People need to know who they are, how special it is living up in this beautiful town of Tuktoyaktuk. There's so much potential."
Young people often think they need to leave home to be successful, but she doesn't believe that's true.
They can go and become scientists, or whatever it is they want to be, and return home to study their own land, she said.
"So I want to be that person that stands as an example to show them - love where you come from and also don't be afraid to take opportunities," said Gruben. "Take as much as you can and just don't give up."