I had the privilege of interviewing David Pelly for one of my latest pandemic lockdown whisky fireside chats. He’s a well-known writer and modern-day explorer in the Arctic, publishing a dozen books and hundreds of magazine articles on the North’s cultural and historical landscape.
His latest book is an incredible read. The Ancestors Are Happy focuses on the people of the North; a collection of his personal stories of individual Inuit he’s known while living and travelling in the Arctic for over 40 years. The articulate text brings the reader on a journey across the landscape, hosted and guided by the Inuit elders. It’s a journey worth taking. Everyone should read this book.
David Pelly by Michelle Valberg
David led his first Arctic expedition in 1977, beginning a northern career spanning the decades since. He continued to guide in the North, travelling by canoe and dog team across thousands of miles of Arctic wilderness. He has worked with biologists and archaeologists in the field, developed and written documentary films, served as co-curator of Inuit art exhibitions, and assisted with numerous community-based cultural projects across Nunavut. Much of David’s work has been rooted in the collection of oral-history and traditional knowledge from Inuit elders. In 2012 he was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal "for dedication to the preservation of Inuit oral history and traditional knowledge [and for his] many works to help increase Canadians' understanding of the North."
I found the interview with David very compelling, especially while discussing his latest passion: the Ayalik Fund. David and his wife Laurie established the charitable foundation in memory of their adopted Inuit son Eric Ayalik Okalitana Pelly, from Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. Tragically, Eric died in his sleep in 2014, at age 19, of sudden cardiac arrhythmia. Eric benefited greatly from several youth programs, helping him gain self-confidence and self-esteem. The Ayalik Fund is based on those fundamentals. It takes Inuit youth on challenging outdoor adventures, introducing them to experiences they would never have the opportunity to do in their regular life. It definitely changes their lives for the better.
Check out the whisky fireside chat with David Pelly: