A CBC Original Documentary
Using local materials and traditional knowledge Inuit/Gwich’in Hunter, Kylik Kisoun will re-establish and re-imagine the lost practice of building an Inuvialuit sod-house with the intention of creating housing security in his traditional territory of the Beaufort Delta.
Kylik builds his future at his off-grid camp and creates an opportunity for language and cultural revitalization.
Kylik Kisoun is a tour operator based near the community of Inuvik in the Northwest Territories. In the spring of 2020, Kylik’s company, Tundra North Tours completely collapsed over the course of 48 hours as the global COVID-19 pandemic gripped North America. The borders to the Northwest Territories immediately closed and remained closed for over a year. In the year that followed, Kylik and his family had to close down and sell the majority of their infrastructure. Having the future they planned for ripped out from under their feet was devastating, but rather than being defeated, the Kisoun Family is now living on their traditional land and are starting an off-grid community and farm that is based on Indigenous methods of hunting and foraging. With this newfound lifestyle, Kylik took time during the 2021-2022 year to build a livable sod house and village at his camp. The home was built from natural materials, but also included modern technology, salvaged parts and modern finishes. A fusion of old and new has been ingeniously combined to create a pilot project to help create affordable and sustainable housing in the Arctic.
Sod houses were traditional dwellings for the people of the Beaufort Delta, made from a dugout and braced with the large timber that flows north down the Kuukpak/Dehcho (Mackenzie) and Liard Rivers during the spring run-off. The massive poplar and spruce logs travel from as far south as Northern BC and make their way to the Arctic Coast as driftwood. Sod is sourced within a kilometer of the build site. The last traditional sod house was built in the Arctic in the early 1900’s.
There is deep intergenerational trauma in the High Arctic as a continued legacy of residential schools, forced relocation, cultural genocide, loss of language, culture and racism. But through the building of the culture village, Kylik and his peers find pride and autonomy by living powerfully on the land in a way that has existed for millennia. Kylik along with his crew of local Indigenous and non-Indigenous builders helped with the construction of the camp. Implementing the Inuvialuktun language during the build and in all aspects of camp life was also an important component to the build that rooted the village in decolonizing and reIndigenizing practices.
By building the village, Kylik continues to provide an opportunity for Elders and Youth to meaningfully engage in cultural reclamation in the best classroom there is… the Land.
Kylik Kisoun Taylor
Kylik Kisoun Taylor is of Inuvialuit, Gwich’in and Scandinavian descent. He grew up in Ontario hunting, trapping and mushing dogs with his father. In 2003 Kylik made a permanent move back to his home community of Inuvik, Northwest Territories where he felt a deep connection to his Inuvialuit and Gwich’in roots, his family, the land and his culture. His uncles, Gerry Kisoun and Dennis Allen, as well as his Daduk (grandfather) Victor Allen, constantly took Kylik out in the bush where he learned the way of the land. They taught him the stories of his people and important cultural traditions and knowledge. Gerry helped him get his first caribou and Dennis taught him to build a bush camp. His Daduk Victor told him the old stories. With the help of his family, Kylik was able to become rooted in his culture and acquire the knowledge and skills needed to be out on the land on his own.
The first time he returned North, he viewed the world of his ancestors for the first time through the eyes of a tourist. It was a perspective that would eventually open doors to his own tour company. From the Beaufort Delta, Kisoun Taylor grew up in southern Ontario where the landscape is carved with roads, skyscrapers and the bustle of urban life. As he returned to his roots, Kylik fell in love with the history, culture and majestic beauty of the Beaufort Delta region and he dreamed of being able to spend his time on the land.
At age 20, when Kylik founded Up North Tours – now called Tundra North Tours and in its 10th year of operation – he was years ahead of when he believed he would fulfill that dream. Wading into the volatile tourism industry at such a young age was serendipity for Kylik, whose undeniable passion to share his world with visitors hurtled him down the path of tour operator. In 2006 Kylik started his company with the dream of being able to share his love of the Arctic and all it has to offer with visitors from around the world. As a bonus, he now spends a large portion of his time out on the land that he loves so much!
Kylik served as a member of the Board of Directors on both the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada and Northwest Territories Tourism. He is one of Canadian Travelers Top 40 under 40 and the 2019 recipient of the National Aboriginal Youth Entrepreneur Award.
Clara Day is Inuvialuk and was born in Aklavik, Northwest Territories. As a young girl she moved to Inuvik and has called it home ever since. Clara loves the land and spends as much time as she can at her hunting and whaling camps in the high Arctic. Clara is passionate about Inuvialuktun language revitalization and has worked as a language teacher for students in grades 1 to 6 for over twelve years. Clara shares her love of language and culture with tourists as a storyteller and cook, sharing traditional Inuit foods with visitors. She believes that sitting together, sharing food and stories is one of the best ways to connect with people who are different from yourself. Clara is a proud mother, grandmother and great-grandmother and continues to live, work and sew in the Inuvik area.
Tiffany Ayalik is from Yellowknife, NT and is Inuit from the Kugluktuk region. It was in the North, listening to stories from her elders, that she discovered her love of storytelling, and the powerful change that hearing a story can bring about. After receiving her Diploma in Acting from Red Deer College, she continued her studies at the University of Alberta, and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting. Tiffany travels across Canada and has performed in Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Finland and in Europe sharing her blend of story, song, movement, and improv.
Tiffany hosts a TV show called “Wild Kitchen” where she meets interesting people who are closely connected to the land and the food they harvest. “Wild Kitchen” is enjoyed across the North and in 74 million homes in the US on First Nations Experience (FNX). As a host, she shares her Inuit perspective and land use teachings with her guests as they collaborate on harvesting and cooking a meal. As a film actor, Tiffany’s work can be seen at many
international film festivals. In Canada you can see her as Daphne in CBC’s “A Christmas Fury” the spin-off of cult classic “Hatching Matching and Dispatching” and on CBC’s “Little Dog”. She produces film and media with long-time collaborator Caroline Cox and their company Copper Quartz Media based out of Yellowknife, NT. Tiffany is a Juno Award winner and often collaborates with sister, Inuksuk Mackay in their katajjaq (Inuit throat singing) band, PIQSIQ.
Kylik Kisoun Taylor
Kylik has been directly featured in several productions, including APTN’s Wild Archeology and CBC’s True North Calling and FNX/NorthwesTel’s Wild Kitchen which is broadcast in over 74 million homes in the US. His passion for his homeland extends to visitors in the film community who want to develop meaningful collaborations with the local community to showcase the beauty of the Inuvialuit region.
After many on-camera appearances, Kylik Kisoun Talyor makes his Directorial debut on Okpik: Little Village in the Arctic. It was an important step for Kylik, who was interested in telling his story from an authentically Northern Indigneous perspective, and who had worked with Tiffany Ayalik on an episode of Wild Kitchen. Kylik’s executive control in telling the story of Okpik Village gives this film a very authentic look into the journey of building a community off-grid in the High Arctic.
In the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, the Inuvialuktun languages are considered endangered. Fewer than 20% of the population speaks Inuvialuktun, the majority of whom are elders. Tiffany and Kylik as the directors of the film felt it was vital to use the project not only to tell the important story of the village but to also use it as a vehicle to create language resources for the community. The film production was incredibly fortunate to have several elders both in front of and behind the camera working with the team to make sure important cultural and linguistic elements were accurately portrayed. Creating a 100% Inuvialuktun version of the film to be broadcast on a national streaming platform is the first of its kind and the team is honoured to be able to help make this important intervention into the Canadian media landscape. Elders Elsie Koadloak and Gerry Kisoun are frequently at the camp and provided invaluable traditional knowledge and language learning to camp staff, the film crew and all guests who came to visit. Clara Day and Mary Allen worked tirelessly to translate the entire film into Inuvialuktun and were dedicated language coaches for all of our voice over performers. In the voice over studio, our youngest participant, Indigo Taylor was flanked by her grandmother, great aunt and aunt as she spoke her lines in Inuvialuktun. It was an amazing event to watch the intergenerational transfer of knowledge being shared through the medium of film.
WOMEN BEHIND THE LENS
Copper Quartz Media was co-founded in 2018 by filmmaker Caroline Cox and actor and musician Tiffany Ayalik. Based out of the Northwest Territories, Copper Quartz Media Inc. has produced a number of documentary films and series in the past 5 years, including Food for the Rest of Us (Telefilm Canada Talent to Watch), Wild Kitchen (NorthwesTel/ FNX), NorthernHer (NorthwesTel/CBC) and Backcountry Hustle (NorthwesTel). Our company deeply values Indigenous sovereignty and rights to our own autonomy, especially when it comes to on-screen representation.
For the making of Okpik: Little Village in the Arctic, Caroline Cox spent many weeks living in a tent at the Okpik Village often working as the sole crew member on site, in order to capture important moments as the story evolved. Tiffany Ayalik was also the lead sound engineer for the Inuvialuktun voice over sessions.
As the producers on the film, Caroline and Tiffany also welcomed the opportunity to work with new and emerging Indigenous talent on this film, working with Nolen Rainville as our location sound mixer, and Benjamin McGregor as our Digital Media Intern and as the camera operator on the final block of shooting in March 2022.