How to make a Ranger: the JCR program

Being a Ranger is an honor in Taloyoak and Gjoa Haven, coveted by men and women alike. So it’s not surprising the youth of these communities look for the day when, as teenagers, they can join the Junior Canadian Rangers. As a JCR, they learn traditional skills, are taught ethics such as volunteering and community service, and get to have a great time out on the land to boot!

Last weekend our crew followed the Junior Rangers in some of their activities and a caribou hunt on a couple of day-trips on the land. It was such a privilege to be able to follow these great kids on some of their adventures. The program works to reinforce the kids’ connection to their roots and the values of their culture.

Here’s a short recap of our time with the JCRs:

First thing on the agenda was an air rifle shooting competition in town. Qualification wasn’t exactly what you’d expect: anyone who wanted to shoot was going to have to help out in a town cleanup. Every spring, as the snow recedes and land and rocks begin to appear, nine-months’ worth of buried detritus also emerges. A big town cleanup generally happens a little later in June when the snow is mostly gone, but our JCRs got to pitch in early as a pre-requisite to enter the shooting competition.

The competition brought out many kids, everyone eager to test their skills. It was a first time for some, but even those who had been out on the land with their parents and grandparents since they were small, and had had a chance to shoot caribou or seal, were excited to participate.

Everybody looked forward to Saturday and Sunday’s day-trips out on the land. This is really what being a Ranger is all about: going out on the land. Departure was set for 830 from the bay and the sleds set out (almost) on time, bumping across the terrain as the kids whooped and hollered, needling the adult Rangers to go faster. Twelve Ranger skidoos had been commissioned, pulling 2-3 kids in each sled.

The trip to Netsilik Lake, a traditional hunting and fishing territory, was short, and as soon as they arrived everyone got to their tasks. The Rangers drilled fishing holes as Junior Rangers looked on to learn the technique. Some of the older JCRs took a turn at the heavy auger as they’d already learned to handle it from previous trips. Others fetched snow to melt for tea and drinking water and learned how to pitch a tent, to light the sometimes-ornery camping stoves, and prepare for lunch.

Then, it was time for the hunt, the highlight of the day. A group of Rangers set out with some Juniors in the sled to find caribou. Soon enough they found a small herd and some of the kids got their first shot at a caribou, bringing down five in total. Excitement was great, especially as it was the first catch for some of the young men. Killing your first caribou is a big deal and the boys couldn’t have been happier.

After skinning and dressing the caribou, tying them to the front of their sleds, it was time to go back to camp for a rest and some games. Tug of war and rope skipping – made more difficult with a caribou skin wrapped around the middle of the rope – and relaxing made up the rest of the afternoon. As the fishing continued into late afternoon, everybody had a lot of fun, but eventually it was time to wrap up and had home, tired, but happy.

And then… we got to repeat it all over again on the next day!

For MORE on the Canadian Forces JCR program, click here.

PS: And the recipe for a Junior Ranger, in case you’re wondering:

add two parts seal meat, 1 part fresh char, some crazy coloured hair dye, one iPod, some beautiful smiles and… stir on the back of a qamutik!