Due to the fact that Canadian Inuit suffered greatly during famines, they had a special empathy for other peoples suffering due to hunger. In 1986, they travelled to Ethiopia to try and help in any way they could.
Inuit delegation visits Ethiopia
The Ethiopian government invited a delegation of Inuit to a fact finding tour of famine in Ethiopia. Headed by John (John A.) Amagoalik, the co-chairman of Inuit Committee on National Issues (ICNI), the delegation spent 10 days visiting resettlement camps, feeding stations, medical facilities, and aid projects. The delegation included Mary Lyons, education officer for Inuvialuit, Henry Evaluajuk a well-known carver, Jella Moss-Davis, president of Inuit Women’s Association, a crew from Inuit Broadcasting Corporation (IBC) and Inuivialuit Communications Society (ICS).
These Inuit were invited by impressed Ethiopian authorities who had learned of the generosity of the Inuit. Canadian Inuit, who were deeply touched by television images of starving Ethiopians, contributed more than $100,000. “When the Inuit saw the faces of hunger on TV screens, something hit us in the guts,” said John A., speaking for Inuit when asked by a southerner journalist. He also cited how in the early 1950’s many Inuit were threatened with starvation.
In Ethiopia, Amagoalik saw a young girl at a feeding station who impressed him: “She was blind. She was in rags. She was a skeleton,” said Amagoalik and explained how she led other orphans sing about nutrition and staying healthy.
The delegation visited where “children were happy” but Amagoalik cautions against contributors relaxing as if the emergency was over. “In Ethiopia,” said Amagoalik, “the tragedy continues,” and urged North Americans to keep giving to Ethiopians.
Coming back from the trip, Amagoalik suggested that northern communities could “adopt” Ethiopian resettlement camps or projects or provide on-going aid for several years. The trip was called Project Polar Star and was made possible by the Canadian government and private contributions.
(Taqralik, February 1986, page 28)