Arvik ! – Chasing the Bowhead Whale

Photographer : Robert Fréchette

Location : Zone portuaire de Chicoutimi

Well before the arrival of international whalers to the North and, for many centuries, the Inuit hunted bowhead whales for their subsistence.  This was a fundamental activity that differentiated the Inuit from the populations of the Arctic that preceded them.  Several archeological sites, oral tradition and Inuit art confirm this.  Hunting the bowhead whale, as done by the Inuit, was a complex and dangerous endeavour.  Despite the benefits provided to the community by the capture of a whale, it is hard to imagine today how the Inuit of the time, equipped only with kayaks and animal skin boats, would have dared to go up against such a huge animal.

Based on scientific evaluations that confirm the observations by the Inuit that the population of bowhead whales is increasing, Fisheries and Oceans Canada issued, in 2008, a permit to capture one specimen within the framework of a pilot project.

As a result of this, hunters from the community of Kangiqsujuaq in Nunavik had the opportunity to renew a lost tradition.  This exhibit is a testimony of their experience and to their incredible hunting instinct which has not disappeared.

Robert Fréchette founded the Stock Photo Agency in 1987 with other photographer friends. This is the first independent agency in Quebec to produce photojournalists’ exhibits. Following many visits to different Native communities and after numerous exhibits, Robert Fréchette moved, in 1993, to Kangiqsujuaq with his family to live with the Inuit of Nunavik.  He returned to Montreal in 2008.  He is presently the director general of the Avataq Cultural Institute.

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