North Country Revealed in Pavilion


Mountie and Inukshuk

Mounties standing next to an Inuit inukshuk greet visitors at Canada's Northern House.

Visitors to Northern House in downtown Vancouver will be able to glimpse the wide-open spaces and wilderness of Canada’s territories. As one of the Olympic display centres, it is a combined effort by the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut set-up to showcase those regions and their culture.

Entering the pavilion, visitors are greeted by two Mounties in full scarlet dress uniform flanking a six-foot tall inukshuk, a stone landmark used by the Inuit. Further inside, a table-top game-like display gives visitors a chance to build their own miniature inukshuk. Stuffed, life-size examples of artic animals, like polar bears and caribou, stand stolidly for multiple photo opportunities.

Spread over two floors, the displays in the pavilion centre mostly on contemporary Aboriginal art. A number of sculptures mainly carved from serpentine, a common rock polished to high sheen, show off the fine handiwork of Inuit artists. Additionally, crafts using traditional materials are on display, such as seal skin mukluks and jackets as well as moosehide vests and moccasins.

Performers from the North are featured on the main-floor centre stage—everyone from Dene drummers to folk-rock band Sophisticated Cavemen. Visitors can also check out a short film which streams a montage of Northern landscapes across the big screen with narration by local people of why they loving living in the territories.

One of the other fun things the pavilion has going for visitors is the option to send family or friends a 15-second video postcard. Visitors stand in front of a video camera to have their image projected onto a series of wilderness landscape scenes in the background, like the tundra or a flowing river. At the end, using a computer touch screen, individuals can enter an email address to send the video postcard off over the Internet.

Northern House also has a free contest draw for visitors (at least 18 years old) to enter. The prize is one of three treasures—a .59 carat $8,000 Canadian diamond from the Northwest Territories, or a 3.8 Troy ounce $9,000 gold nugget from the Yukon, or a $5,000 tapestry entitled Qaqqilutuk (Camp Site) created by Nunavut artists.

One of the drawbacks to the Northern House can be the long line-up to get inside—at least a 45-minute wait on some days. While staff members are dispatched outside to the lines ostensibly to engage those waiting and handout free gifts, some staffers completely ignore people in line. Once inside, visitors will stand in another line-up—at least another 20 minutes—to enter their name in the contest draw.

Northern House is located at 602 West Hastings Street at the corner of Seymour. Until Feb. 28, it is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Up until and during the Paralympic Games in March, it is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Check the website for event listings, www.canadasnorth.com.

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About Kerry Hall

Journalist
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