The Spilsbury Underground

. Facebook had a precursor in Nunavut When the Government of Canada began rounding up Inuit from their ancestral homes in the 1950s and locating them in fabricated settlements, many families continued to escape at every opportunity to slip back out 'on the land'. Some only went a few feet each Spring, pitched a tent right beside their settlement house and lived in it until Fall. Others hightailed it back to their accustomed family areas to hunt and trap and gather until winter threatened.

A determined few didn't bother coming back. They resumed living on the land again all year round.

The Government took to calling these Outpost Camps, a very settlement-centric thing to do. When Brigitte Bardot, the aging Caucasoid Tart of European Imperialism outgrew her own role as purveyor of other furry artefacts, she set out to destroy the value of seal products. Canada graciously (sic) responded by creating programs to supplement Inuit subsistence with a few dollars for fuel, equipment and the odd emergency medivac by helicopter.

Which raised an interesting point.

How were outpost camp dwellers to call for that emergency medical assistance? The answer lay in what was to become the bright orange talisman of every outpost camp evening. The Spilsbury SBX-11A SSB transceiver. Nothing was more characteristic of the outpost auditory environment than the gentle background hiss of static weaving in and out of murmuring family chat. Qilujak and Lucaatsi providing life's play-by-play commentary, boiling tea, a Coleman lamp. It is one of the warmest Inuktitut experiences available. Intimate and secluded.

Until the Spilsbury crackled!

"Inukikunnut, Inukikunnut, qajaqtuqtulirijiit, naalappisi? Uuva!" Or if Qilujak was the caller, more like "UUUuuuuUUUUVA!!!!"

Suddenly a whole other world sprang to life. A virtual reality that, especially in its later years, settlement-bound folks hardly knew existed unless an elder kept a Spilsbury in the bedroom, with an inverted-L antenna slipping out the window to a couple of oars propped up with rocks and nylon guy wires.

I thought it was gone. There are so few, perhaps even no truly permanently occupied outpost camps at all anymore. Is there no similarly sane alternative to town-bound inanity available any longer?

Then along came Spilsbook or is it Facebury?

A new Inuktitut underground is emerging. Not the dreary qallunaattitut litany of "I'm making pancakes now", "think I'll go to a movie", but the new soul of Nunavut. An alternate community is floating gently up above the concrete day-to-day of Town life. The word 'virtual' doesn't fit. It's too laden with wispy, ephemeral connotations of artificial realities. The Spilsbury Underground is not only real, it is the very substance of Inuktitut, the way of being, not just the language.

Take a deeper look at Nunavummiut on Facebook. They are already creating something so different from Town-bound culture, so much more like the old Spilsbury Underground, something to which the rest of the community are still oblivious. The quality of life, the way of treating each other, the subtle access into English of concepts that were previously only possible in Inuktitut, the language, so many elements of culture that until now were slipping away, appropriated by well meaning politicians, bureaucrats and policy wonks into stillborn IQ platitudes, the modern equivalent of an earlier and equally insulting equivalent, 'Cultural Inclusion'.

One does not subsume an entire cultural into an element of curriculum, or policy! It is the curriculum and the policy that are mere elements in an overarching culture.

Keep it up you guys. You are Inuit Qaujimajaqtuqangit. You are breathing it into this new community, this late evening social chatter, the new Spilsbury Underground.

For people like me, who understand just enough to lurk and notice, it is a delight. But for your contemporaries and offspring, and for generations world-wide after that, it will be the breath of life.

The attitudes capable of helping humanity navigate the next hundred years of crisis are not surfacing from the First and Second Worlds. They are gurgling and nurturing and re-emerging from the Third and Fourth Worlds.

Keep refining it. The time is coming when it will quietly produce real concensus and influence, the kind that can sway elections and reform planetary discourse.



  1. Uuvaa. Interesting, my late uncle spent hrs and hrs on the radio, the vital link between community and the Nunaliit. Like some expert few checking on the conditions and most importantly giving advice. At one time, he even held a NTI election over the radio, of course all the listeners knew how the person voted, "open democracy". Gone are ... See Morethose great classrooms of the HF radio, where ppl shared their daily experiences, much was learned from those. Personally my most difficult experience was the radio silence after the walrus hunters perished. As for the third and fourth world reaching for their rightful place, reminds me of the seventh generation prophecy of the Indians. Taimakainnaq.

  2. Who was it in Qamanittuaq who used to go on local community radio every evening and summarise all the chatter he'd heard on the Spilsbury Underground during the previous 24 hours? Was it Armand Tagurnaaq? I don't think so. It's on the tip of my tongue. I'd recognize it right away if I heard it. Baker was one of the few communities that had a regular 'leak' from the Underground back into the mainstream media.

  3. Spilsbury? Better known as "uuvaarutik". :D