I’m Royalty by Association

So here I was, minding my own business last week, innocently perusing Yellowknife’s website, when I stumbled across this:

My initial reaction: Yes, yes, we’ve all seen the photos of the royal couple visiting Yellowknife.

And then: Wait a second.. That’s ME!

Go on! A photo of Prince William meeting me, on Yellowknife’s website. Yes, that blonde head is me. I had never seen this photo before, so I excitedly posted it to my Facebook. A few hours later I heard from a friend who lives in Norman Wells. She was en route back home from Edmonton, and during her stop in Yellowknife airport, she noticed that the gift shop had this very photo up on display. Apparently the woman who works at the gift shop took it.

Gotta love living in a small town.

So, when I go to pick my mom up on October 1 at YZF, I’ll have to have a peek in the gift shop to see it, and to meet this woman!

A Random Ten

Things I’ve noticed about Yellowknife.
  1. No one really talks about how summer is over, nor about how cold it’s getting, except for Southerners like us. (There was FROST on the ground this morning!)
  2. I can count on one hand the number of luxury vehicles I’ve seen over the last six months. That orange and black souped-up Charger counts.
  3. The air traffic is loud. Picturing Yellowknife you would imagine quiet, serene landscapes, maybe a few birds chirping… Easy to forget that the airport lies a mere 5 minutes from downtown, and that there are an estimated 70,000 takeoffs and landings a year. Plus, those old WWII aircraft at Buffalo aren’t the quietest planes. (“Like a chorus of trumpets,” Chris says.)
  4. It’s normal to see vehicles with entire bumpers smashed off, and huge cracks across windshields. Winter isn’t nice to Northern vehicles so we turn a blind eye. Luckily, there is no annual inspection.
  5. Fresh fruit does not exist as it does down South. Sure, the berries look ripe and the peaches are soft, but don’t dare wait two days to eat them, for they’ll be half-mushy and housing fruit flies before you can even get the stickers off. The exception are apples.
  6. Vegetables stay fresh.
  7. If there is a section of woods between you and where you are walking, there will be a path through those woods. Maybe even a wooden boardwalk. You just have to find it.
  8. Doggie sweaters, jackets and boots are approved of and widely used. They are never acceptable below the 60th parallel, so don’t try.
  9. Canada-wide offers almost never include the territories. Though, they technically didn’t say “Canada-tall”, so really it’s our fault that we were misled.
  10. There are a ridiculous number of playgrounds in this town.


There are 11 official languages in the Northwest Territories, which seems a little ridiculous until you start reading into the history and geography of the area. Moving here from Nova Scotia, I was thrown into this culture that I had no idea about. I remember one of my first patients while I was a student on Obstetrics had named her daughter a name I couldn’t pronounce if my life depended on it. After a disastrous attempt, she laughed and said “it’s Slavey”. I had no idea what that meant. Turns out, Slavey isn’t just one but two languages, divided into North and South Slavey. These two, plus English, French, Cree, Dogrib, Gwich’in, Chipewyan, Inuvialuk, Inuinnaq and Inuktitut make up the 11 languages of the NWT.

Official Languages Map (click to enlarge)

Since I am a big nerd, I’m really into learning about the history and culture of the NWT. As such, I’ve always been struck by one of the languages in particular, Inuktitut. It can be written in both Latin alphabet and syllabic form, the latter which has caught my attention. Throughout Yellowknife on sidewalks, roads, walls and benches, you’ll periodically be treated to a beautiful phrase written in brightly-coloured chalk in Inuktitut. I haven’t gotten a photo of it myself, but a quick Google search brought me this one.

Reads "Don't get angry." Photo cred Lauren McKeon

So, in my attempt at investigating Inuktitut, here’s what I’ve come to learn. Inuktitut is spoken in all areas of Canada above the tree line, primarily in Nunavut (or so it appears). It has 15 consonants and three vowels, and the syllabic writing has only a few signs, and the the vowel sound depends on the orientation of the symbol. So, in the picture above, the 8th and 9th symbols are the same consonant (L), but have different vowels and therefore different sounds. So cool.

This next photo I got from Omniglot and I love it because it shows how, depending on orientation, the symbol carries a different vowel sound. The dot above the symbols means it’s the long form of the same vowel (the Latin letters become doubled).

Inuktitut Syllabary

Since Inuktitut is recognized in both Latin and syllabic form, the two sentences here say the same thing:

ᐅᖃᐅᓯᖅ ᐊᑕᐅᓯᖅ ᓈᒻᒪᔪᐃᑦᑐᖅ.
Uqauhiq atauhiq naammayuittuq.
“One language is never enough.”

So true. And for those wondering, the posts title says “Do you speak Inuktitut?” :)

Edit September 17 2011: Got my own photo, though I have no idea what it says. Any input would be fabulous!