An aurora is a natural light display in the sky particularly in the high latitude regions, caused by the collision of energetic charged particles with atoms in the high altitude atmosphere . In northern latitudes, the effect is known as the aurora borealis (or the northern lights), named after the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora, and the Greek name for the north wind, Boreas, by Pierre Gassendi in 1621.
Canada’s northern territories are made up of ruggedly beautiful landscapes that can easily appear stark and inhospitable to visitors unfamiliar with the area. Survival in these lands depends on an intricate understanding and appreciation of the challenges of this region and limited opportunities that are available. Now our northern lands are changing faster than can be believed due to the effects of climate change. The Inuit people of Canada used to sustain themselves completely on their own in the north by relying on ancient knowledge and wisdom passed down from generation to generation. Most of these Inuit elders are now gone and the Inuit as a people are now changing as quickly as the lands they inhabit.
Our garden pays homage to the traditional skills and artistry of the Inuit culture. A few generations past an Igloo or snowhouse was the best use of locally available materials to create a warm, wind proof shelter for a nomadic people. Now the Inuit live in modern homes in permanent communities and Igloos are no longer used as houses. By recreating the strength and structural simplicity of the Igloo in a modern form we want to demonstrate how old traditions and ways of life can still be of use in the north. Traditional Inuit artists have now developed new techniques and skills as printmakers and sculptors and their work is coveted and shipped around the globe. Ancient communication techniques such as stone Inukshuks are now widely recognizable as an important part of this traditional culture and way of life. The plants in our garden were chosen to represent the windswept trees and the hardy evergreens and perennials of the north that struggle for survival in a difficult climate.
A changing climate brings new realities and opportunities to the north. Year round shipping lanes, thinning sea ice, advancing treelines and growth in mining and resource extraction will all challenge and shape the Artic and its people in drastic ways. Open water now presents new possibilities for the north and also means permanent loss of traditional lifestyles. Canada’s Inuit peoples are fighting hard to preserve their unique language, art and way of life while meeting the challenges of a changing climate and a modern world. It is important to recognize how valuable and fragile our northern region truly is and how this area and its peoples are unlike any place else on earth.